Sleeping With The Devil?

The thing that really captures me lately, is how certain products bluntly fulfill a single, isolated need, whereas others manage to affect multiple needs that exist across people’s (often deeply embedded) habits or routines. In other words, some products just change our doing of things.

An example of the latest category is any soy-based product. The moment you purchase a soy-drink, soy-yoghurt or a soy-based protein substitute you actively disengage from consuming meat, fish and dairy. It might even affect your cooking practices, exploring the Asian kitchen (since it holds a longer history of using soy-based products compared to European cooking traditions) or putting vegetables instead of meat or fish at the centre of your meal (as do many master-chefs and cookbook-writers).

Source: Ecofys and University of Twente for Alpro Soya.

I never thought about soy like this, until I visited the main production plant of Alpro Soya in Wevelgem, Belgium, where I was actually stunned by how little steps the process from soy bean to soy milk or yoghurt actually entails. The majority of the plant is designed to add (natural) flavors, and package all the different milks, yoghurts, cooking creams and desserts. The key focus for Alpro Soya lies with: taste. As long as people do not perceive soy-based products as tasty, no cognitive environmental claim can serve as a trade-off for consumers to go soy. And no dietary changes are set in motion.

This is actually a pity, since Alpro Soya – as the first European company – recently joined the WWF’s  Climate Savers program. This turns them into a sustainability pioneer in the portfolio of Dean Foods (Alpro Soya was acquired in 2009). Forming a “hybrid” collaboration between a for-profit company and a NGO might sound hypocrite from a traditional activist point-of-view, but according to Peter Senge a “hybrid” is the only way forward.

WWF US’s chief operating officer Marcia Marsh explains why in Senge’s book The Necessary Revolution: 

“The simple fact is that we are failing relative to our larger goals. (…) Working alone, NGOs are simply unable to reverse the tide of global change. To do this, we will have to develop new partnerships with businesses and governments, partnerships whose scale of impact is commensurate with the problems we face” (p. 78).

Although there’s a small divorce rate with companies and Climate Savers (WWF is a very demanding spouse) –  I’m still up for more of these marriages.

One thought on “Sleeping With The Devil?

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