What influences and inhibits reduction of deforestation in the soy supply chain? A mental model perspective

Summary

Multiple sustainability initiatives have emerged in response to the environmental impacts of soy production, especially deforestation and climate change. But company commitments to reduce deforestation in their supply chains are not leading to outcomes on the ground. Achieving concerted action by supply chain actors requires consideration of their diverse perspectives.

We investigate the mental models of Producer Associations, Traders, Fast Moving Consumer Goods Companies (FMCGs), NGOs, and financial institutions to identify the key similarities and differences in the factors perceived to promote or inhibit a reduction of deforestation from soy production in Brazil. Our results show general agreement across participants that NGO pressure and reputational risk are external motivators for companies to move towards sustainability, but only certain actor groups recognised that internal motivators are additionally needed for alignment between a sustainability agenda and a company’s corporate strategy—highlighting the importance of internal motivators to stimulate companies to translate commitments into actionable policies.

Our results suggest that implementation of commitments to reduce deforestation is hampered by different perceived financial risks, differences in the levels of influence and power held by different actors, and a perceived entitlement to deforest that prevails over a sense of urgency for environmental sustainability. We highlight that any policy that threatens this “right to deforest” mindset can lead to the erosion of producers’ conservation behaviour through unnecessary clearing of land before such policy is implemented.

Our findings highlight an opportunity for the organisations driving sustainability initiatives to consider and explore these differences as they seek transnational corporations to transition to a more sustainable soy industry and supply chain. Moreover, our study provides an example of how mental models can provide valuable insights for the achievement of sustainability in agricultural supply chains more broadly.

Information

Link to centre authors: Guerrero, Angela
Publication info: Guerrero, A.M., Jones, N.A., Ross, H., Virah-Sawmy, M. and Biggs, D., 2021. What influences and inhibits reduction of deforestation in the soy supply chain? A mental model perspective. Environmental Science & Policy, 115, pp.125-132.