25th October 2022
Bonsucro Global Week 2022 in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil, was the biggest event we’ve ever hosted, with 250 people from 25 countries. As global supply chains are under more scrutiny than ever, it was fantastic to get some of our members together and discuss how we can change the sugarcane sector for good to become more sustainable.
As Jean Claude Autrey, the Chair of our Board said, “You are the critical mass needed to affect change.”
Setting the scene: the Brazilian context
Brazil is important to Bonsucro; it’s where a fifth of our members are (60 members and 77 certified mills). As Miguel, our Director of Latin America said, “Brazil has blazed a trail and we can learn from the significant progress the sector has made here.”
To open the event, several authorities went on stage, including Joaquim Leite, Brazil’s Minister of Environment, Duarte Nogueire, Mayor or Ribeirão Preto, and Carolina Matos, Secretariat of Agriculture and Supply for the State of São Paulo.
We heard about Brazil’s emission reduction commitments, which will be implemented by replacing fossil fuels with renewable fuels. It was also interesting to hear how Brazilian sugarcane mills are exporting energy to the grid. In fact, our latest Outcome Report shows that 71% of certified producers worldwide export some energy to their national grids.
The circular models of production in Brazil are impressive. There is a lot that the sector can learn from this and there are opportunities by integrating with other produce like corn and peanuts.
Several speakers reiterated the key role that Bonsucro is playing in transforming the sugarcane sector. Eduardo Leão de Sousa from UNICA, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry and Bioenergy Association said, that of the magnitude of voluntary certification systems, “the most important among them is Bonsucro.”
Creating value in the supply chain
Driving the market demand of certified sustainable sugarcane was a theme that came up a lot at the event. We heard about five key market trends in supply chains:
- Transparency and impacts – wanting to understand issues such as human rights and water.
- Regenerative agriculture – there’s a shift to holistic management.
- Purpose-driven approach – more brands are telling customers how sourcing sustainable ingredients contributes to positive outcomes in growing origins.
- Health and wellness – there’s a consumer shift to lower calorie foods.
- End of abundance – supply chains are still recovering from the pandemic, and events like the war in Ukraine add to the challenges.
As a result, companies are increasingly thinking about sustainable ingredient sourcing. Katherine Morrison at the Hershey Company told the audience that sustainability features in a lot of high level meetings, and that climate change is considered a very real business risk. For them, certification systems, like Bonsucro, offer credibility, assurance, and help them to understand issues in the supply chain.
Andre Valente at Raízen suggested that if people saw gaps in Bonsucro, they should feed this back to the team rather than setting up a separate programme: “It’s less costly for the whole value chain to focus on Bonsucro, and there’s a multistakeholder process to gather these suggestions.”
Ferrero achieved 100% certified sugarcane in its supply chains in 2020. At the event, Fernando Careli from Ferrero told us that certification is not the end of the journey, and the company wants to do more. Greenhouse gas emissions is an important topic for them, and they aim to buy from producers with a lower carbon footprint.
Improving the environmental impact of sugarcane
Improving the environmental impact of sugarcane is one of our strategic aims and was an important theme at Bonsucro Global week. We were excited to launch our project Science based targets in sugarcane, a new collaborative initiative aiming to reduce emissions in the sugarcane sector.
As Joaquim Leite put it, “Protecting the water and the soil means you are going in the right direction.”
Our session on water emphasised that we are in a water crisis and that drought last year was worse than ever. This is a problem that everyone needs to be thinking about as water consumption is something that we all do daily.
We heard some fantastic examples of projects to better manage water. For instance, Joana Bischoff shared how Tereos planted 4,360 native trees, which helped to reduce water consumption for three years in a row.
Soil health also featured in conversations. Anthony Edwards, from Donovale Farms in South Africa highlighted that a soil map is fundamental to any farming enterprise. By knowing their soil types, companies can predict and manage erosion, carefully manage nitrogen, and what type of cane to plant for the best yields.
Agriculture drives 11-14% of global greenhouse gas emissions, so it’s important to think about regenerative agriculture. Esteban Figueroa from Proforest shared that the best farming practices to reduce emissions are to minimise tillage, maintain coverage, carbon sequestration, protect biodiversity, and consider biological nutrition. Marcel Morales from Biofabrica recommended using biofertilisers to increase the organic matter in the soil, which favours carbon capture.
Strengthening human rights and decent work
Human rights are not a fad or a voluntary requirement. It is legislated. It is increasingly required in the markets. Every supplier to the US and EU must abide by their legislation. It is a responsibility and a need regulated by the markets which buy and sell sugar, but it is most importantly a humanity topic.
During a breakout session, our Director of Corporate Services, Laura Fisher, shared the results of our project on Good practice and Learning in Due Diligence and Grievance Mechanisms. She shared how we will improve our grievance mechanism, through accessibility of languages, making it clearer and more user-friendly, and we will collaborate with other third parties to strengthen our eco system. In this session, the attendees split into groups to share their own ideas.
The audience heard that certification is just the first step when thinking about human rights. We all face challenges on how good practices can be rolled out, so it’s important that we work together.
Visiting the field
On the final day of Bonsucro Global Week, attendees visited Bonsucro certified producers. One group headed to Spinagro, the first certified smallholder farm in Brazil. The group learned about Spinagro’s business selling sugarcane seedlings. It also saw the new cachaca factory which opened this year and produces Sozé. The team at Spinagro shared its impressive commitment to sustainability, including visions to meet every single sustainable development goal.
Another group were taken to Sao Martinho – the world’s biggest sugarcane mill. Here the team learned about germination and sugarcane growth, seeing the fields for themselves. With a huge capacity for making sugar, the team were able to see different areas of this very large mill. The team at São Martinho were clearly dedicated to their sustainability goals, and it was great to see themes discussed throughout the week put into practice.
A place to connect
In addition to the learning opportunities, Bonsucro Global Week provided plenty of chances for our attendees to connect and build partnerships. We offered delegates interactive demonstrations and workshops during the coffee and lunch breaks. We also hosted a drinks reception with cocktails made with Bonsucro-certified cachaca. The Bonsucro Inspire Awards also gave attendees the chance to meet other guests and learn about successful sustainability initiatives.
If you missed Bonsucro Global Week, take a look at the highlights videos on our YouTube page, and don’t forget to subscribe to our channel.