After finalizing the branded data pilot successfully, and publishing their datasets on Donau Soja / Europe Soya certified soybeans from four different European countries, GFLI interviewed Julia Weihs, head of Standard and Sustainability, at Donau Soja for insight on their journey.
Who is Donau Soja?
Donau Soja is a European non-profit association with around 320 members representing over 27 countries. Their vision is to obtain a sustainable and safe protein supply for Europe, in line with the five pillars of their protein strategy. The strategy includes legume production in Europe, sustainable import chains, healthier diets, efficiency in use of protein, and creating a resilient variety of proteins to decrease dependency on one major crop.
How did you get started with the branded data pilot?
Donau Soja participated in the GFLI branded data pilot with their European produced soybeans, regionalized in Croatia, Romania, Ukraine, and Serbia. The choice for these countries was multifaceted. On the one hand relevant Donau Soja / Europe Soya certified volumes are located there with significant cultivation land and yield. On the other hand it was important to present datasets that are currently not available as regional datasets in the GFLI database.
During discussions with partners the topic arose for Donau Soja to participate in the GFLI pilot, which seemed to be a good opportunity for the feed sector. Branded data will become more valuable as companies are increasingly looking for options to take climate measures in their own supply chains.
‘”Providing branded datasets is a benefit for certified Donau Soja / Europe Soya partners. The carbon footprint is much lower compared to the secondary data that is otherwise available. Lower values result for example from Donau Soja’s strong requirements in regards to land use change (LUC). Due to segregated supply chains, these values can be used further down the value chain.’’
Difficulties during the pilot
Donau Soja had a relatively easy process in the branded data pilot, due to previous engagement in a similar project. Some processes were to be updated but since most data was already collected it posed no major hurdles. In primary data collection, the overall costs and the time investment were limiting factors. Motivating producers to participate was key, and it took some convincing as the benefit for them versus the additional effort necessary from their side was not always clear. A helpful factor in that were the regional offices Donau Soja has in the countries the data was sourced from, allowing local staff to help in communications in a language the producers are most comfortable with. This is especially relevant as multiple feedback loops were necessary during the data collection and modelling process in order to streamline the process and collect all necessary data.
What’s the take away from the pilot?
‘’It was a very interesting project where we have learned a lot about LCA and working with databases such as GFLI, but also gave us a better understanding of how our soybean producers work. The latter made it possible to draw conclusions out of their individual farm practices and factors we had not considered in the past.’’
Donau Soja sees the value of the GFLI branded data and would see this sort of primary data becoming more and more important. For them it would also be beneficial to have other organisations participating so more data would become available for comparability and benchmarking. In the near future, Donau Soja would be interested to participate in branded data again, with the possibility of data from other countries, or other legumes. However, the challenges and costs would make it difficult to start right away.
A sector-wide harmonization of LCA data and methodology on EU Level would be a great step towards more transparency and accountability. Therefore, the EU Commission should include a standardized methodology in the Green Claims directive. Due to publicly available data, databases such as GFLI have the potential to contribute to transparency.