Soils are economically and environmentally valuable. They are the foundation of life for all living things – and they have the potential to store enormous amounts of carbon, thus counteracting climate change. We protect this valuable, non-renewable resource by promoting and expanding organic farming with our Naturaplan own-label brand, by promoting water and soil standards in crop cultivation, and by our commitment to ending the use of peat.

Challenges posed by global land use

After the oceans, soil is the world’s second-largest carbon store. The loss of soil fertility reduces the function of soil as a greenhouse gas reservoir – and therefore has an impact on global warming. Intensive agriculture increases the loss of soil fertility. The intensive use of agricultural land also has a negative impact on soil structure: it can leave soil unable to fulfil its important habitat functions. Natural cycles are disturbed, and precipitation damage increases. Soil degradation – the destruction of the soil – is a creeping process that is often not noticed until it is too late.

Supplying the world's growing population with the food it needs depends crucially on the quality and fertility of land in agricultural use. We are therefore committed to agriculture that preserves soil fertility, sees biodiversity in soils as the foundation of life, and retains the carbon stored in them.

As a result of the decline in soil fertility, land all over the world that was previously untouched is being opened up – and forests and other natural ecosystems are being converted to usable land. To reduce use-related damage to tropical soils, we are committed to ensuring that our supply chains are no longer exposed to deforestation and conversion risks by 2026. For more information about our position on soil and our commitment to its conservation, see our Soil policy paper.

Soil protection in our supply chains

Promoting organic agriculture

Reduced tillage has been shown to protect against erosion by wind and water, increase the carrying capacity of the soil and promote soil life. The greater the vitality of soil, the more humus it contains and the more carbon it can store. By promoting organic farming with Naturaplan, our organic own-label brand, we support soil protection worldwide.

Enforcing our water and soil standards in crop cultivation

In 2016 lack of awareness in production led us to work with GlobalGAP to develop the Coop water and soil standard that we call SPRING: the Sustainable Program for Irrigation and Groundwater Use. In addition to making agricultural water management sustainable, it implements erosion-reducing measures and confines cultivation to land in legal ownership. We are working towards compliance with SPRING in all high-risk countries by 2026 for our entire range of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, as well as flowers and plants.

Avoiding the use of peat

Peat is mainly used as a soil substrate in agriculture and horticulture. The material is light, fibrous and loose, so that air and water can easily reach plant roots. Peat forms as organic deposits in bogs. It develops very slowly, over many centuries. Extracting peat releases the carbon stored in bog soils and destroys important habitats. Although peat extraction is prohibited in Switzerland, some 524 000 cubic metres of peat are imported every year.

This is why we support the plans of the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) to phase peat out, ending its use in bagged soils and for ornamental plants. Our indoor and outdoor own-label brand soils entirely dispensed with peat in 2013, and all our soils have been peat-free since 2019.

Risk screening in our supply chains

Making land management climate-friendly and less damaging to soil takes different forms, depending on region, agricultural activity and soil type. By 2026 we shall therefore analyse our supply chains for high-risk origins, identify products from regions with a high risk of soil degradation, and address them with soil-building measures.

Research projects

Whenever possible, the important topic of soil fertility is included in research projects conducted by both our own Coop Sustainability Fund and FiBL, the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture.

  • One of our projects aims to promote agro-ecological diversity on citrus plantations by improving soil fertility. The aim is to make trees more resistant to the infectious citrus greening disease.
  • Another project, on innovative cultivation technologies in organic farming, focuses on precision farming techniques. Using robots to eliminate weeds, for example, avoids the use of herbicides – while detecting pests in the field with drones allows pesticides to be applied more precisely, which reduces their use.