Governments as far away as Brazil and Australia have teamed up with campaigner Bonsucro to put a stop to the environmental waste caused by the sugar cane industry. Sugar is a notoriously resource intensive crop which depletes aquifers and pollutes seas due to the use of chemical fertiliser and pesticides. More than 3% of all the world’s sugar is now produced sustainably, as verified by Bonsucro’s inspections.
Results & Impact
Over 470 members – governments, farmers and sugar mills – have signed up to Bonsucro’s standards, and 38 sugar mills have been certified as “enterprise resilient", in terms of environmental protection and workers' rights. Bonsucro now accounts for 3.66% of the global sugar market and hopes to increase that share to 20%. An independent review of one certified mill in Maracai, Brazil, found a 20% reduction in the use of inorganic fertiliser, and a four-fold reduction in acidifying gases emissions
Governments of Brazil and Australia, and farms and mills worldwide, Bonsucro, World Wildlife Fund
The non-profit Bonsucro brings together sugar manufacturers and big users to agree on sustainability standards. Purchasers like Coca-Cola and Bacardi commit to buying sustainable sugar. The project also trains its members, including farm and mill workers, in sustainability and how to cut down on the use of insecticides, fertilisers and water consumption
Brazil and Australia
Cost & Value
Running since 2008
One of the challenges faced by Bonsucro involved the British firm Tate & Lyle Sugars, which was suspended over complaints that the company was profitting from buying sugar from a plantation in Cambodia that was illegally taken from local villagers. Tate & Lyle Sugars subsequently ended its relationship with Bonsucro
A far reaching international campaign has seen governments around the world collaborate with a non-profit to introduce important reforms to the labour intensive and often exploitative sugar cane industry.
Bonsucro, which is supported by the World Wildlife Fund, has found success by engaging with governments and sugar producers, as well as those companies which use it in their products. In its drive for sustainability and since launching in 2008, Bonsucro already accounts for 3.66% of the global sugar market. The organisation hopes to increase that share to 20%.
Its members include government agencies across the world, Coca-Cola, the confectioner Ferrero Group and oil companies like BP and Shell. Their common aim is to drive sustainability by being business facing rather than consumer led.
“We are slowly shifting to more engagement with government,” said Kevin Ogorzalek, Director of Impact Partnerships at Bonsucro. “So far, we have spent most of our previous history engaging with NGOs, the World Wildlife Fund, Coca-cola, Bacardi and Unilever. then sugar cane mills around the world. Learnin how to engage with governments has been a process for us. We don’t proscribe solutions, we want to leave it up to the producers themselves to use their own ingenuity and resources.”
Bonsucro works with its collaborators in a number of ways. The organisation works with governments to persuade them of the need to bring sustainability to sugar production. It also convenes groups of sugar producers and those companies who use it to persuade both to sign up for sustainability goals.
The organisation also trains its members, including farm and mill workers in sustainability, and how to cut down on the use of insecticides, fertilisers and water consumption. Bonsucro also introduces a third party-verified standard, called the Bonsucro Production Standard and Certification, which proves the sugar farm or processing mill has achieved Bonsucro’s sustainability standards.
Since setting its standards in 2011, over 470 members have signed up to Bonsucro’s platform and 38 sugar mills have been certified as “enterprise resilient”, in terms of labour rights, climate change and biodiversity. One independent review of a certified mill in Maracai, Brazil, found a 20% reduction in the use of inorganic fertiliser, and a four-fold reduction in acidifying gases emissions.
Over a million hectares around the world are currently Bonsucro certified, a figure which represents over 60 million tonnes of sugarcane produced. The non-profit also says the average Bonsucro mill’s lowest wage, including benefits, is 24% higher for farmers and 29% higher for mill workers than the local minimum legal wage.
Sugar is a notoriously resource intensive crop which depletes aquifers and pollutes seas due to the use of chemical fertiliser and pesticides. Once sugar cane has been harvested, the common practise of burning fields accounts for 20% of the crop’s CO2 emissions.
Bacardi, a founder member, has committed to source 100% sustainable sugar by 2022 and both Ferrero and Coca-Cola have pledged to do the same by 2020. Sugar cane is grown in 102 countries around the world.
(Picture: Flickr/Chris McBrien)