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Zero Deforestation and Conversion (ZDC) Methodology

A deforestation and conversion risk assessment protocol for soy supplies

Zero Deforestation and Conversion (ZDC) Methodology

A deforestation and conversion risk assessment protocol for soy supplies

Bringing Nature-Positive Soy to Market

The scientific community and civil society are constantly alerting us to issues related to deforestation, natural land cover conversion, land grabbing, and encroachment of indigenous lands.

Companies have responded through voluntary initiatives and action plans to reduce or end deforestation in their supply chains, but recently, governments have taken a decisive position. In November 2018, France published the National Strategy to Combat Imported Deforestation (SNDI), which aims to end the import of forest or agricultural products that contribute to deforestation by 2030, including soy. In June 2023, the EU Parliament and the council published a new regulation to prohibit the entry of products linked to deforestation and forest degradation, among them soy. The requirements are clear: soy products must be verified as free from deforestation to enter the European market.

At Earthworm, we share the vision of a soy industry that is no longer linked with deforestation or the conversion of any other natural ecosystem, such as grasslands. We aim to help build a soy industry that is Nature and People Positive: where ecosystems are protected and restored, human rights are protected, and farmers are adopting regenerative practices.

The Zero Deforestation and Conversion (ZDC) methodology is the first step of a more global and long-term strategy to help the soy industry become Nature and People Positive. By deploying an open-source, industry-wide, credible and practical methodology for the verification of conversion-free soy supply chains, we can support the implementation of EU regulations in force and stakeholder expectations. By engaging soy operators in a continuous improvement process, we allow them to move towards positive transformation in the soy supply chain.

Obtaining deforestation and conversion-free verified soy supply chains is an important part of that vision, but there are several challenges to doing so. These include the lack of transparency, the numerous blends of soy from various origins at every logistic facility of the supply chain, and the lack of traceability with indirect suppliers. Nonetheless, several solutions have been developed to support this objective. One such solution is the Zero Deforestation and Conversion (ZDC) methodology led by Earthworm Foundation.

Methodological approach

The Zero Deforestation and Conversion (ZDC) methodology is a deforestation and conversion risk assessment protocol applied in the soy supply chain.

It verifies that a physical flow of soy from the production area to the cargo ship meets these Zero Deforestation and Conversion (ZDC) methodology criteria: not related to deforestation or conversion of natural ecosystems, whether legal or illegal, after the cut-off date of January 1, 2020.

Risk assessment is performed in the producing country before exportation. This allows participating European players who directly or indirectly consume soy to do so without the risk of contributing to the deforestation of ecosystems in Brazil.

The Zero Deforestation and Conversion (ZDC) methodology is divided into four stages:

  1. Data collection: mapping the supply chain by collecting traceability information from the trader and suppliers.

  2. Risk assessment: analysis of the origin of soy volumes by cross-referencing information on soybean crops and deforestation or conversion events. Special attention is given to each logistic facility in which soy from different origins is mixed: storage silos, crushing plants, port terminals, cargo ships, and other transport hubs.

  3. Validation: verification of the assessment, and final evaluation of the cargo ship. At the end of the protocol, the trader receives a summary report and a letter declaring the volumes of Zero Deforestation and Conversion (ZDC) soy in the cargo, to communicate the results to the market.

  4. Risk mitigation: sharing a series of recommendations to develop risk mitigation measures supporting the transition to deforestation- and conversion-free verified soy supply chains. Special attention is given to supplier engagement, deforestation-conversion monitoring, and management of non-compliance.


Earthworm Foundation is committed to supporting the development of practical solutions and interventions to achieve deforestation and conversion-free soy supply chains. In Europe, over the last three years, we have contributed to implementing the French Soy Manifesto, which has today expanded to the UK and Netherlands. The ambition of the French Soy Manifesto is to obtain a market switch between conventional to Zero Deforestation and Conversion (ZDC) soy. Our Zero Deforestation and Conversion methodology is conceived as a first step to respond to this ambition, and it is recognised by the signatories of the French Soy Manifesto.

In 2022, the methodology was tested for soymeal shipments between Brazil and France. The proof of concept was performed on the shipment named Ultra Lynx in May 2022. Since then, several pilots have been performed to characterise conventional soymeal loaded in eight shipments from four different traders. This corresponds to a total amount of 231,531 tonnes, representing approximately 12% of annual soymeal imports to France.

Next steps

The work to date has led to the development of the first version of the Zero Deforestation and Conversion (ZDC) methodology. Stakeholder consultation - including importers, retailers, industries, NGOs, political representatives, and technical companies - was organised in early 2023 to collect feedback on the method and the main directions to be taken.

Earthworm Foundation is currently developing the second version of the methodology. Our goal is to refine the methodology and verification process, push adoption of agreed criteria for deforestation and especially conversion, explore models to tackle conversion of grasslands to soy, and promote the adoption of widely accepted, public and transparent databases, repositories, and techniques, to support operators to implement the EU Deforestation Regulation and beyond. We also aim to pilot the Zero Deforestation and Conversion (ZDC) methodology for soybeans imported from Brazil that will be crushed in European territory and soy by-products.

For further information:

If you would like any more information about the Zero Deforestation and Conversion (ZDC) methodology, please reach out to the coordinators:

Daphné Menthonnex (France)

Joao Carlos B Silva (Brazil)

More resources

Lidl commits and welcomes the first ZDC soy cargo ship | Lidl France