Bonsucro certification arrives in Mexico: Ingenio San Nicolas achieves country’s first certification

5th June 2019

We’re pleased to announce that in March 2019, Ingenio San Nicolas (ISN) became the first sugarcane mill in Mexico to achieve certification against the Bonsucro Production & Chain of Custody Standard. This achievement is especially prominent in a country with an important sugarcane industry and a long history of engagement with Bonsucro.

We spoke to Rafael Vayá, Vice President Corporate Social Responsibility speaking on behalf of Ingenio San Nicolas in Veracruz, Mexico, about achieving the Bonsucro certification.

  1. Please share some background of the Ingenio San Nicolas (ISN) mill

Ingenio San Nicolas was founded in 1950.  The first two harvests were completed in 1951 and 1952 respectively, in which only piloncillo [panela] was produced.  Thereafter, and for 32 years, Ingenio San Nicolas has been involved in the production of muscovado sugar. In 1982 Ingenio San Nicolas started producing estándar (standard) sugar and in 1995 the mill started producing refined sugar. From here onwards, Ingenio San Nicolas has consolidated itself as a leading company in the national sugar market and sugarcane industry.

Today, Ingenio San Nicolas has regional offices & storage locations, which support various management functions and produces & packages standard, muscovado and refined sugar for sale to the Mexican, US and Caribbean markets in different package sizes, plus molasses to the Mexican market.

  1. Why did Ingenio San Nicolas seek to accelerate sustainability through the Bonsucro certification?

The Bonsucro Certification Standard aligns well with the company’s commitment to its Corporate Social Responsibility program to improve social and environmental standards, as well as productivity and quality at the mill, agriculture and with third-party small farmers. Ingenio San Nicolas’ decision to achieve Bonsucro certification demonstrates the company’s commitment to being a leader in sustainability and to meeting internationally recognised benchmarks such as Bonsucro, considered the most prominent social standard for sustainable development in the sugarcane sector. 

  1. Would you like to thank any partner organisations you collaborated with to support the certification process?

Ingenio San Nicolas collaborated with Fundacion Solidaridad Latinoamericana to implement best practices aligned with the Bonsucro certification standard with the ultimate goal for Ingenio San Nicolas to become certified. The achievement of certification would not have been possible without an extraordinary group effort and winning mentality on the part of all employees at Ingenio San Nicolas, both at the factory and agricultural operations, who took ownership of the process. A special thank you to each member and team leader, who without their support, work and dedication, this would not have been possible.

  1. What changes have you implemented during the Bonsucro certification process which have demonstrated measurable, positive impacts for people, profit and planet?

Once we made the decision to seek Bonsucro certification, a gap analysis was carried out to determine areas of improvement in relation to the key focus areas of the Production Standard. Based on the gap analysis, Ingenio San Nicolas developed an action plan to fill any gaps and achieve compliance with the requirements of the Bonsucro standard. Along with the guidance and assistance from the Solidaridad Foundation and Ingenio San Nicolas’ internal certification lead team, corrective actions were developed and implemented to adjust internal practices and meet the requirements outlined in each of the Bonsucro principles.

ISN has implemented a more robust environmental social management plan, improved our internal employee management system as well as communication with stakeholders. Furthermore, ISN has strengthened its culture of environmental awareness and implemented improvements in worker safety. It has also refined its management of input and production efficiencies to further enhance the company’s sustainability and reviewed the potential to assign further funding for research opportunities. Implementing changes in these areas has helped us achieve measurable improvements in our economic, environmental and social impacts. Overall, Bonsucro has helped Ingenio San Nicolas further solidify our CSR and sustainability strategy based on continuous improvement.  In addition, it has contributed to providing a logical and sustainable measurement system, constantly improving our supply chain.  We demonstrate this by the way we source raw materials to the way we manufacture of our products, provide our services, and manage our overall company processes.

  1. Did Bonsucro’s tools (The Bonsucro Standard and the Bonsucro Calculator) play a key role in achieving certification?

The Bonsucro Calculator played a vital role in demonstrating compliance with the Bonsucro standard. In particular, it revealed opportunities for improvement in areas where we had to bridge the gap between our current processes and those of the Production standard. The Bonsucro calculator is an extremely useful tracking tool that provides real-time information and data highlighting our performance with respect to compliance with the Bonsucro standard in a quantitative manner and related to our economic, environmental and social activities.

  1. For your company, how important is the Bonsucro certification?

For Ingenio San Nicolas, becoming Bonsucro certified is highly important because it demonstrates its commitment to continuous improvement and CSR standards. Ingenio San Nicolas’ certification confirms our desire to raise the bar and aim to be the best.  We are now aligned with an internationally recognised sustainable sugar certification standard that is respected by our customers globally and all stakeholders in our industry. This certification will also contribute to attract additional financing for investment projects with a social and economic impact, the sustainability of our company and as an incentive for national and international buyers.

  1. What were your key learnings during the certification process?

Undergoing certification gave Ingenio San Nicolas the opportunity to align our current CSR and sustainability programs to an internationally recognised standard for socially and responsibly produced cane sugar. It permitted further refining of our CSR practices by improving our current management systems and performance frameworks. The certification permitted the mill to focus on the three pillars of sustainability: environmental, social and economic through a benchmarking process, which allowed us to measure and determine the effectiveness of our internal sustainability strategies, both at the agricultural and mill levels.

  1. What are the next steps for Ingenio San Nicolas in terms of Bonsucro and sustainability?

Through the continuous renewal of our commitment to this certification, we will demonstrate our dedication to conducting our business in a manner that is sensitive to the social needs of the communities and the environment where we operate.  Following Ingenio San Nicolas’ achievement, the mill plans, in the near future, to expand the scope of the certification by including third-party cane growers.

  1. What do you hope will be achieved from Ingenio San Nicolas’s Bonsucro Certification?

We hope to continue demonstrating our commitment to conducting business in a legal, ethical and humane manner. Bonsucro certification will contribute to the sustainability of the supply chain and serve to increase domestic and international customers’ confidence in our products.

The sustainability of our products and supply chain is a fundamental core value for Ingenio San Nicolas. The company’s CSR program is based on continuous improvement and we will continue to further raise the bar with respect to our CSR standards. Achievement of certification at Ingenio San Nicolas is a major milestone as we further demonstrate our commitment to conducting business in a legal, ethical and humane manner. It will contribute to the sustainability of the business and serve to increase domestic and international customers’ confidence in our products.