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Cara Hopkins' Blog

Promises, promises

Every time I open my email, someone is pledging to clean up their act—Fair trade by 2020! Zero waste by 2035! I'm all for goal-setting, but some of these promises feel a little reduced, recycled and reused.

One of the most recent to reach my inbox is from the Round Table on Responsible Soy, a coalition of producers, trade organizations and environmental groups that announced last week it’s adopting voluntary production standards to reduce the negative impacts of soy production.

Raised as a vegetarian, I remember vividly the looks of shock and disgust when I revealed that I ate tofu. My friends would gasp, “Oh my god! How do you eat that stuff?” I might as well have said I ate puppies. But most people these days have tried it and eat it quite often. Soy protein in all shapes and sizes has made it to the mainstream.

Unfortunately, the process of growing and processing soybeans—as with any monocrop farming—takes its toll on the land. The soy industry has been criticized for its part in destroying natural habitats, displacing indigenous people and deforestation, especially in South America. So the folks at RTRS have agreed on voluntary guidelines called “Principles and Criteria for Responsible Soy,” based on principles like developing “responsible labor conditions” and “best agricultural practices.” Without seeing the full report, and let’s face it, I’m not planning on becoming an expert on responsible soy production any time soon, so I probably won’t, my gut reaction is—OK, great. Let’s keep strategizing and making regulations, and enforcing regulations, and talking about how to do things more responsibly. But what I’m really looking forward to are the days when my inbox is bursting with the news: Sustainability goals achieved! Rainforests saved! Indigenous cultures preserved and thriving!

Imagine that? The days when all these pledges and promises are replaced by bigger, better, even more ambitious goals and we are that much closer to a functional, sustainable, thoughtfully-cared-for world.

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