05 Sep 2023
 | 05 Sep 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Can corporate supply chain sustainability standards contribute to soil protection?

Jan Frouz, Vojtech Cemus, Jaroslava Frouzova, Alena Peterkova, and Vojtech Kotecky

Abstract. Companies increasingly view soil degradation in their supply chains as a commercial risk. They have applied sustainability standards to manage environmental risks stemming from suppliers’ farming operations. To examine the application of supply chain sustainability standards in soil protection, we combined global data on existing sustainability standards and their use in the food retail industry, a key sector in agrifood supply chains, with a case study in a medium-sized European country, to explore companies' options and views.

Soil quality is a priority objective in retail sector sustainability efforts: 41 % of the investigated companies apply some soil-relevant standard. But the standards lack specific and comprehensive criteria. Compliance typically requires that farmers are aware of soil damage risks and implement some mitigation measures; however, no measurable thresholds are usually assigned. This stands in contrast to some other provisions in a number of standards, such as deforestation criteria. There are two probable causes of this difference: Companies and certification bodies have prioritised other environmental challenges (e.g., pesticide use, biodiversity loss in tropical biomes) over soil degradation. Also, there are practical constraints to the useful standardisation of soil sustainability. Effective soil sustainability provisions will require measurable, controllable, and scalable multidimensional interventions and compliance metrics. Often, these are not yet available. The development of necessary practical tools is a priority for future research. In a case study, we developed a set of standards applicable in temperate European farming practice and adapted to the needs of food retailers. Based on discussion with the industry, farmers, and soil experts, the standard is based on specific commodities rather than production units and compliance with specific agronomic practices as opposed to direct measurements of soil quality.

Jan Frouz et al.

Status: open (until 22 Oct 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse

Jan Frouz et al.

Data sets

Data for the manuscript: Can corporate supply chain sustainability standards contribute to soil protection? Vojtech Cemus

Jan Frouz et al.


Total article views: 114 (including HTML, PDF, and XML)
HTML PDF XML Total BibTeX EndNote
89 19 6 114 4 4
  • HTML: 89
  • PDF: 19
  • XML: 6
  • Total: 114
  • BibTeX: 4
  • EndNote: 4
Views and downloads (calculated since 05 Sep 2023)
Cumulative views and downloads (calculated since 05 Sep 2023)

Viewed (geographical distribution)

Total article views: 111 (including HTML, PDF, and XML) Thereof 111 with geography defined and 0 with unknown origin.
Country # Views %
  • 1
Latest update: 03 Oct 2023
Short summary
Soil degradation is a topic that companies increasingly recognise as a business risk. But how effectively do they use sustainability standards to prevent it in their supply chain? Investigating the global food retail industry, we discovered that soil is a priority objective for companies but standards usually lack specific criteria. Working with retailers in a European country, we explored ways they can improve their suppliers’ everyday practice and overcome barriers that hinder implementation.