Continuing our commitment to improving wages in sugarcane

9th August 2023

Bonsucro is committed to our strategic aim to strengthen human rights and decent work in sugarcane farming and milling. This aim includes promoting the improvement of wages for the most vulnerable people.  As a membership organisation, we can only achieve this through the collective action of members and other stakeholders.

On 31 July we published version 5.2 of the Bonsucro Production Standard.  This revision was undertaken in response to feedback from members to improve the wording and create clarity around certain indicators and their scope.  The new Production Standard is the outcome of a multistakeholder participatory process that has included civil society organisations, trade unions, farmers and sugarcane mills, traders and processors, and buyers. Version 5.2 was approved by the Members’ Council, before formal endorsement by our Board.

Concerns have been raised by some stakeholders that the commitment to guarantee a living wage for workers has been reduced in version 5.2.   We would like to confirm that the indicator to measure the existing wages paid and then benchmark them against a living wage, remains in version 5.2.  However, the rules around compliance with that indicator were changed.

Introducing the aspirational indicator

To achieve certification against our Production Standard 5.2, operators must meet 37 core indicators and 60% of the 31 non-core indicators. For this new Standard, we have introduced ‘aspirational’ as a new qualifier in addition to ‘core’ and ‘non-core’.

The status of the indicator on benchmarking the prevailing wages to the living wages has changed from “non-core”, where operators could choose whether they would comply with it, to “aspirational”, where operators still choose whether to meet the indicator. Those who do meet the indicator will be publicly showcased as going beyond minimum compliance. Those that choose not to, will not have it marked as a non-conformity by the third-party auditors.

Raising wages in the sugarcane sector is a strategic priority for Bonsucro and our approach to living wage is to ensure that it is a shared responsibility between all actors in the supply chain. The first step is for operators to collect accurate salary data and benchmark it against the living wage. Through collecting data, producers can evaluate any gaps and work towards a living wage – with support from all actors in the supply chain.

To support this process, we are developing the tools and training needed to collect the data that will enable producers to understand the existing wage gap and plan how to close it. We have partnered with the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) who have developed a salary matrix for other sustainability systems and will work with producers to pilot its use once the new Standard comes into effect on 2 December 2023.

Continuing work on wages in other areas of work

Bonsucro plays an important role as a trusted and valued partner in convening the sugarcane sector to tackle the most challenging topics. We will continue to back the agenda to advance wages by supporting our members to learn and make changes. We will offer more grants through the Bonsucro Impact Fund, provide more training opportunities, and develop incentives that reward producers for meeting the aspirational indicator of the new Production Standard on wages.

Read more about our approach to and work on living wage here.