Growing demand for soy is leading to the deforestation of large tracts of Cerrado vegetation in Brazil, with associated GHG emissions and loss of biodiversity.
However, it is possible for a robust soy sector to exist and even expand without further clearing of natural vegetation.
The Responsible Commodities Facility (RCF) is an initiative to promote the production and trading of responsible soy in Brazil, by creating a financially sustainable vehicle to provide incentives to farmers and help meet the growing international demand for zero-deforestation supply chains.
The Facility will structure a series of programmes to tackle this environmental challenge using different approaches and financial mechanisms.
The RCF Cerrado Programme 1 is the first programme of the RCF.
The Facility will use sophisticated technology to screen farmers for compliance with its strict environmental Eligibility Criteria.
Farms will be continuously monitored and independently verified at the end of each crop cycle.
Compliance with environmental criteria and the impacts of the Facility’s operations will be reported to an Environmental Committee.
An environmental committee advises on the methodologies and reviews the results monitored by SIM and Earth Daily. The organisations shown below integrate the environmental committee, and BVRio acts as the secretariat.
The environmental impact of its programmes will be independently verified and discussed with the Environmental Committee, to be reported to financial supporters.
Statements of Environmental Impact will be issued with the pro-rata impact of individual investments, stating, for instance:
The amount of Deforestation and Conversion-free soy produced
The area of native vegetation conserved in the production areas financed by the RCF
The amount of carbon stored in these farms.
The Cerrado Programme 1 complements other responsible soy production initiatives such as the UK Soy Manifesto, the Consumer Goods Forum’s Forest Positive Coalition, and is a member of the Innovative Finance for the Amazon, Cerrado, and Chaco (IFACC), managed by UNEP Finance, TNC, and the Tropical Forest Alliance.
The development of the Facility received financial and institutional support from a series of organisations, including:
The area of cultivation must not have had any deforestation and conversion of native vegetation since 1 Jan 2020*. Preference will be given to areas converted from abandoned pasture land to soy cultivation after 2008.
Farm land must be registered with the Cadastro Ambiental Rural (CAR). The farm must contain and maintain areas of native vegetation equivalent to those required for Legal Reserve and Areas of Permanent Protection (APPs) determined by the Forest code or have formally adhered to a Programme of Environmental Regularization (PRA) established by the state environmental agency**. The farm area must not overlap with public protected areas, indigenous lands and other traditional people and community lands (including ‘quilombolas territories’).
Farmers must have unquestionable right to use the land, be it as land title, land lease agreement, or another legally recognised form of land tenure (e.g., ‘posse’)
Farmers must demonstrate that they and their farms do not contravene any environmental or legal requirements, such as embargoes, environmental irregularities, contraventions of the labour legislation (including slave and child labour), non-compliance with the Soy Moratorium (if applicable), and internationally-accepted rules for the use of agrochemicals.
*Farmers occasionally request the conversion of small areas of native vegetation to conduct farm improvements (building storage areas, water reservoirs, etc.). Provided that these areas are small and not for the purpose of expansion of the agricultural area, RCF analyses and considers them eligible. In order to do so, RCF uses the concept of Minimal Level (of deforestation or conversion) as defined by the Accountability Framework Initiative Terms and Definitions, which states “To be considered consistent with no-deforestation or no-conversion commitments, minimal levels must generally meet the following conditions: Not exceed cumulative thresholds that are small both in absolute terms (e.g., no more than a few hectares) and relative to the area in question (e.g., no more than a small proportion of the site).”
**The RCF analyses Forest Code compliance by looking at single farms (defined as the area covered by a CAR) or bundles of individual CARs that, in combination, result in the desired area of native vegetation put under the protective status of the RCF. This bundling should not be understood as a means of compliance with the Forest Code requirements and is not intended to release the farmer of the regularization process committed under the Forest Code rules (enrolment in the CAR, engagement in a PRA, etc.). In order to differentiate its metrics from those of the Forest Code, the RCF refers to areas of Excess Native Vegetation (ENV) as opposed to Excess Legal Reserve, to avoid confusion with areas legally categorised under the Forest Code.