Bonsucro & RenovaBio: Exploring synergies and advancing GHG reduction in Brazil
Project partners: Earth Innovation Institute and Agroicone
Project length: 12 months Budget: $22,347,79
Supporting the Sustainable Development Goals:
RenovaBio is the Brazilian biofuel policy designed to provide an important contribution to the fulfilment of the commitments determined by Brazil under the Paris Agreement, like the decrease of Brazil’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2029. It aims to do this by encouraging an increase in the production and participation of biofuels in the country’s energy transport matrix. RenovaBio has established a certification scheme for biofuel, towards which Brazilian sugarcane mills are working, that will enable them to trade decarbonisation credits on the Brazilian stock exchange.
Bonsucro continuously seeks to grow awareness and adoption of its standard. In Brazil, this can be achieved by aligning its framework with RenovaBio to optimise costs and time for mills. In 2019, Bonsucro received a grant of US $22,000 from the Earth Innovation Institute to provide a common understanding of how RenovaBio works and how other regions might benefit from this approach.
Bonsucro addressed the topic at Bonsucro Global Week in Bangkok in March 2019, and through three stakeholder forums in Brazil. The Bonsucro team also commissioned a technical comparison study, which enabled the organisation to understand how best to align with RenovaBio’s requirements. The study has been shared with key stakeholders in Brazil and the project is now complete. Bonsucro is working to incorporate the study’s findings and recommendations through its ongoing Production Standard Revision process.
By aligning opportunities of optimisation, joint work and integration with the Brazilian Government and reflecting it in the Bonsucro Standard, Bonsucro can help to ensure that
more producers adopt sustainability standards.
“Integrating with RenovaBio in Brazil is a prime example of Bonsucro collaborating with other certification schemes for the greater good and improving itself as the global platform for change. RenovaBio will lead biofuel businesses in Brazil towards more sustainable and efficient operations, and Bonsucro can be the complete solution for that.”
Livia Ignácio, Regional Coordinator Brazil, Bonsucro
Building the capacity of sugarcane smallholders in Thailand
Project partners: Fairagora and PepsiCo
Project length: 18 months Budget: $157,245
Supporting the Sustainable Development Goals:
Thailand is a key sugarcane origin for Bonsucro and its members. Sugarcane is Thailand’s most important agricultural crop providing more than 1.5 million jobs and generating almost US $6 billion per year. Smallholders are significant to the sector as 70% of cane production is on farms of less than 10 hectares. Sustainability challenges affecting the sector and smallholders include soil degradation, child labour, overuse of agrochemicals, lack of collaboration between millers and farmers, labour and human rights abuses and the unsustainable use of water resources. In addition, climate change negatively impacts farmers – with increased variability within the seasons disrupting rain patterns in particular.
Bonsucro is committed to the acceleration of sustainable sugarcane production in Thailand. To date, Mitr Phol, TRR, East Asia Sugar, KTIS, KSL and KI Groups have joined Bonsucro and
12 of 51 member mills have achieved Bonsucro certification. TRR Group achieved the first certification against the Smallholder Standard in 2019.
Engaging with smallholders to encourage the adoption of new sustainable farming practices presents challenges but also a wealth of opportunities. The process is often gradual because farmers lack access to the technical knowledge and finance to invest in changing their practices. However, as sustainability challenges become ever more pressing and global brands shift gear to accelerate progress on sustainable farming, empowering smallholders is vital. For example, to fulfil its goal to source 100% of its cane sugar sustainably by 2020, PepsiCo is taking action by including and building the capacity of its supply chains. Within its sugar supply chain, PepsiCo worked with Fairagora, Nestlé and Mitr Phol to develop a smallholder capacity building programme, including the use of a mobile tool to assess smallholders’ training needs and provide relevant training.
To help share best practices learnt through this project, Bonsucro harnessed the power of its platform to invite the sugarcane value chain and in particular Bonsucro certified sugar mills to reflect on the benefits and key learnings. The Bonsucro team presented the initiative during Bonsucro Global Week to its global stakeholders, and raised it during a Thai Stakeholder Forum in October 2019. In addition, Bonsucro has commissioned a technical benchmark of the mobile tool used in the project to help ensure it can be used effectively by smallholders seeking to achieve the Bonsucro Production Standard for Smallholders. The tool is already being considered by a new mill supported by a large multinational as part of its efforts to empower smallholders.
“Engaging smallholders remains a challenge as the sugarcane value chain raises its ambition in terms of sustainable sourcing practices. The Bonsucro platform presents a significant opportunity for corporate members such PepsiCo to pilot new digital tools to scale smallholder engagement and foster collaboration across the value chain.”
Christèle Delbé, Partnerships and Innovation, Bonsucro
Promoting sustainable sugarcane production in Pakistan
Project partners: International Finance Corporation, AlMoiz and Thal Industries
Project length: 12 months Budget: $49,666
Supporting the Sustainable Development Goals:
Pakistan is the world’s fifth biggest sugarcane producer and an important origin for Bonsucro and the sector. Sugarcane production employs around 1.5 million people in the country and around 64% of sugarcane is cultivated on farms of between 1 to 10 hectares. Challenges affecting yields include water scarcity, lack of high yield varieties, and inadequate management of inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides. Mills in Pakistan currently have limited access to information on sustainable production practices, and the Bonsucro Standard has not yet been formally adopted at scale. Smallholder engagement and capacity building also remains a challenge.
To help address these challenges and encourage greater uptake of the Bonsucro Standard, Bonsucro is engaging with major sugar producers across the country. Nine prominent Pakistani sugarcane producers have joined Bonsucro, building the foundation for a local multi-stakeholder platform aiming to accelerate sustainable sugarcane production.
In particular, Bonsucro was approached by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to help two mills (Thal Industries Limited and Almoiz Industries Limited) and their supplying smallholders to adopt sustainable production practices. This initiative could reach 20,000 farmers. It could also inspire other producers to follow the path taken by AlMoiz and Thal Industries to change the approach to sustainability in the Pakistani sugarcane sector. Bonsucro delivered training to the operating staff at the mill and undertook a performance gap analysis of the two mills and ten of their key sugarcane suppliers against the Bonsucro Standards, conducting on-site visits, evaluating performance and making recommendations to inform capacity building plans.
Bonsucro subsequently created a support programme to accompany the IFC and mills to implement best practices with monthly conversations and advice sharing. All the farmers working towards certification have undertaken training on health and safety (delivered by the mill) and been provided with personal protective equipment and trained on how to use it. Meanwhile, the mills have created the structure and trained people to manage the Bonsucro system longterm. By monitoring the changes in performance at mill and farm level, Bonsucro has confidence that these efforts are leading to a positive transformation.
“The Bonsucro framework has helped define pragmatic first steps for two mills in a country where sustainable production standards are not yet common practice. Thanks to the support from the IFC, the two mills we have supported have an opportunity to inspire and become a blueprint for other mill groups keen to adopt best practices in sugarcane production”
Rick Lyu, Regional Director for Asia Pacific, Bonsucro
Expanding access to finance to improve sugarcane farming in South Africa
Project partners: Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, ISEAL, Alliance for Water
Stewardship, SRK, WWF, Better Cotton Initiative, RCL Foods and Akwandze, Nedbank.
Project length: 24 months Budget: $637,804
Supporting the Sustainable Development Goals:
Farmers and processors adopting sustainable farming practices are often rewarded by improved access to markets. Some may also receive preferential financial terms for loans. However, producers generally still receive limited recognition or reward for their good practices from financial institutions. This is largely because these institutions have a relatively low level of awareness of sustainability frameworks and limited access to performance data, preventing them from assessing the sustainability profile of their agriculture clients effectively.
In 2019, Bonsucro was awarded a two-year grant by the ISEAL Innovation Fund to develop a new methodology for financial institutions to assess the sustainability performance of farmers and their agricultural landscapes. In this way, financial institutions will be in a better position to offer incentives for sustainable behaviour and contribute to achieving the Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs) on poverty alleviation (SDG 1) and responsible consumption and production (SDG 12), for example. In addition to further incentivising producers for adopting
sustainable farming practices, the initiative is also reinforcing the
business case for sustainability standards.
Bonsucro is leading the project, creating an approach that combines three existing standards for sustainable production: Bonsucro for sugarcane, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) for cotton and the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) for water management. Additionally, Bonsucro will align the methodology and supporting tools to the IFC Performance Standard, which is commonly used by financial institutions.
Through the project, launched in July 2019, Bonsucro is adopting a landscape approach across sugarcane and cotton farming in the region of Malelane in South Africa. Through the Bonsucro platform, the Bonsucro team convened five stakeholder groups to support and strengthen the project: sustainability standards (Bonsucro, AWS, BCI and Cotton South Africa); sugarcane sector representatives (RCL Foods, SA CANEGROWERS), financial institutions (Nedbank, Akwandze), the NGO sector (WWF) and a technical consultant (SRK).
Together with its partners, Bonsucro is implementing the project in five phases: inception, scoping, developing the framework, conducting a pilot trial and sharing best practice. Firstly, Bonsucro collaborated to build a full understanding of each other’s sustainability standards. The scoping phase of the project, now underway, includes a social and environmental study of the area to assess how farmers currently collect data and gain visibility of other key stakeholders and their practices.
To help share knowledge gained through this project with other ISEAL members, Bonsucro organised the first ever ISEAL members platform in Africa. The first meeting took place in Cape Town in September 2019, with participation of eight ISEAL members (Bonsucro, Alliance for Water Stewardship, Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, Rainforest Alliance/UTZ, Marine Stewardship Council, Fairtrade International and the GEO Foundation) and two support organisations, Solidaridad and WWF. Building on the insights, new relationships and successful collaboration gained so far, Bonsucro is preparing to deliver the core of the project in 2020.
“The Good practice, better finance project contributes to changing how financial institutions look at the social and environmental risk of farmers and their landscapes. It encourages a more holistic and forward-looking approach to risk assessment which is necessary to make sound financial decisions.”
Boudewijn Goosens, Regional Director, Africa & Middle East, Bonsucro
Supporting mills and smallholders in adopting sustainable practices in India
Project partners: PepsiCo and One Peterson
Project length: 24 months Budget: $110,000
Supporting the Sustainable Development Goals:
India is the second largest sugarcane producer in the world. The sector employs over 1 million people directly or indirectly and produces over 400 million tonnes of sugar per year. A further 30 million sugarcane farmers, representing about 7% of the rural population, supply mills in India.
Bonsucro is committed to the acceleration of sustainable sugarcane production in India. To facilitate collaboration and help empower a community of sustainability leaders, Bonsucro India Coordinator, Ritu Baruah, has established a local accelerator plan to which operators can adhere and commit. To date, a group of 12 mills have joined Bonsucro, including Olam, EID Parry and DSCL. Following the achievement of EID Parry in becoming the ﬁrst mill to achieve Bonsucro certiﬁcation in 2015, six mills have now achieved certiﬁcation, including four using the Bonsucro Standard for Smallholder Farmers.
To help reach its goal to sustainably source 100% of sugarcane by 2020, PepsiCo is supporting the inclusion and capacity building of smallholders in India. Since 2018, Bonsucro has helped three of its supplying mills in India – Vijayanagar Sugar Mills, Baramati Agro and NSL mills – to build smallholders’ capacity to improve their sustainability performance and work towards Bonsucro certiﬁcation.
Following a gap analysis of the selected mills, Bonsucro worked with consultants at One Peterson to develop materials to train mill staff and enable them to train smallholders, together with templates to evaluate the training and a guide to certiﬁcation. In particular, Bonsucro created templates for hazard and risk identiﬁcation, an environmental impact management plan and health and safety plans at both mill and farm level. The project is reaching completion. Two of the three participating mills are now Bonsucro-certiﬁed, conﬁrming that the training programme and templates have enabled smallholder farmers to adapt their practices to the requirements of the Standard. To capitalise on the work in this project, Bonsucro is extending free access to all the materials developed to all its member mills in India and beyond.
““It’s been fantastic to see this project help lead to two of the mills achieving certification. The benefits will continue beyond the end of the project, as other member mills are using this training material for staff capacity building. In particular, it has helped to improve documentation and planning for the mills and farms. We would like to thank PepsiCo for its continued support.”
Ritu Baruah, Programme Manager, India, Bonsucro
Partnering with Fairtrade to support smallholders, mills and buyers in Belize and Mauritius
Project partners: ISEAL and Fairtrade International
Project length: 18 months Budget: $143,177 with match funding from Bonsucro and Fairtrade YBC
Supporting the Sustainable Development Goals:
Food and beverage manufacturers are increasingly moving to source sustainable sugar to promote supply chain resilience and respond to stakeholder expectations. However, the sugar sector is highly fragmented and has a broad range of frameworks and standards on offer. Buyers therefore face challenges as they encourage their suppliers to adapt their practices to meet various sustainability standards. Meanwhile, mills and farmers face the difficulty of implementing various and sometimes inconsistent practices or measures to demonstrate compliance, duplicating efforts and resources.
In 2017, Bonsucro was awarded a grant from the ISEAL Innovation Fund to deliver a project to assess the viability of collaboration between two sustainability standards – Fairtrade and Bonsucro – in the same marketplace. The goal was to establish whether smallholders could increase their market access and reduce the impact of sugar quotas on their livelihoods by gaining the best of two respected standard schemes. The expected beneﬁts for smallholders included improved input management and efficiencies (from the Bonsucro Standard) and improved farmer organisation and self-determination
(from the Fairtrade Standard).
Bonsucro and the Fairtrade International developed the project in three phases. Firstly, they benchmarked the Bonsucro Smallholder Standard and Fairtrade Standard, with Bonsucro engaging with Fairtrade-certiﬁed farms to identify what steps they would need to take to become Bonsucro-certiﬁed. The partners then held workshops in Belize and Mauritius to explore how the Fairtrade and Bonsucro Standards and audit systems could be implemented effectively at farm level. This was followed by a workshop with Bonsucro members in Thailand during Bonsucro Global Week to explore the potential beneﬁts of a dual certiﬁcation and collaboration between Bonsucro and Fairtrade. These were practices that comply with both standards, shared reporting and reduced audit time.
The project has enabled Bonsucro to better understand how stakeholders are affected by inconsistent sustainability standards, and evaluate how it can best facilitate collaboration with other schemes active in the sugarcane sector. The initiative has also enabled Bonsucro to increase its reach to new sourcing origins that may be of interest to its members.
“Partnership is an important philosophy for Bonsucro. We believe that great change happens through partnerships with exceptional organisations like Fairtrade. Collaborating with Fairtrade has been a valuable experience. By visiting Fairtrade certified farms, we have seen first hand the positive impact that implementing sustainability standards can have for smallholder farmers over the long term.”
Danielle Morley, CEO, Bonsucro
Mauritius reduces its use of agrochemicals to comply with the Bonsucro Production Standard
In 2019, leading African sugarcane producer and processor, Omnicane Milling Operations Limited, became the ﬁrst sugarcane mill in Africa to achieve Bonsucro certiﬁcation. The certiﬁcation of the company’s Mauritius-based mill marks a signiﬁcant milestone for Bonsucro as it continues to expand across all cane-growing regions. The achievement is also an important accomplishment for both Omnicane and the Mauritian sugarcane industry, and follows a major collaboration to signiﬁcantly reduce chemical application rates, in line with the Bonsucro Production Standard.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, Mauritius is one of world’s highest users of agrochemicals per hectare in Africa. in 2017, the country used an average of 9.75kg of chemicals per hectare of arable land. However, the Bonsucro Production Standard stipulates a maximum herbicide application rate of less than 5kg of active ingredient per hectare.
“Implementing the Bonsucro Production Standard helps us to create added value and increase efficiency while minimising strategic and operational risks,” explains François Audibert, Omnicane’s Chief Operations Officer for Agriculture. “In particular, successfully reducing our herbicides application rate… was a major breakthrough for us [in the drive to achieve certiﬁcation].”
Industry cohesion was central to this effort, conﬁrms Rajiv Ramlugon, Group Chief Sustainability Officer at Omnicane, with two institutions in particular playing a key role in supporting Omnicane in achieving its goal. “The support from and collaboration with the Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute and the Mauritius Sugar Syndicate provided a national drive to promote sustainability initiatives across the Mauritian cane industry,” he says. The Research Institute advised on reducing Omnicane’s use of herbicides, while the Mauritian Sugar Syndicate established a National Cane Sustainability Steering Committee made up of signiﬁcant stakeholders in the Mauritian sugarcane sector such as the three Mauritian mills, and the Research Institute.
Dr Suman Seeruttun, Head of Agronomy Research for the Mauritius Sugarcane Industry Research Institute, oversaw the chemical reduction research. “We have developed evidence-based weed management strategies since 2005, and the Omnicane project also beneﬁtted from our continuous herbicide testing programme for new, more effective and environmentally-friendly active ingredients,” he says. Importantly, Dr Seeruttun believes the project was also successful due to “the commitment by [Omnicane’s] Management and its willingness to adopt the new herbicide recommendations proposed [by the research team].”
Threading sustainability through the value chain: Braskem and Tetra Pak
There is a growing interest in plant-based packaging among consumers, as people seek to reduce their environmental impact, and many more shoppers are looking for assurance that the packaging they buy have been sourced sustainably. Plant-based packaging materials create fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional materials made from fossil fuels. Bioplastics are an example of a plant-based material offering advantages over conventional plastic. Although bioplastics currently represent around 1% of the global plastics market, it is an innovative sector, and predicted to grow by 25% in the next ﬁve years.
In 2019, Brazilian petrochemical company Braskem collaborated with the processing and packing solutions company Tetra Pak to produce a bioplastic from sustainably sourced sugarcane.
Having joined Bonsucro in 2010 to explore business opportunities in the ethanol sector, Braskem soon saw the potential of expanding its biomaterials portfolio, becoming a global leader in the market. With a focus on sustainability, the company invests in research across the chemical and plastics markets. Similarly, Tetra Pak aims to conserve natural resources, optimising its use of raw materials, and contribute to a low-carbon economy. Together, they created packaging made entirely from plant-based and recycled materials, with Tetra Park becoming the ﬁrst company in the food and beverage industry to responsibly source plant-based polymers using the Bonsucro Standard.
This project connected different actors along the supply chain to work towards sustainable objectives collectively, with Braskem taking a leading role in supporting improvement on farms and at mills. Tetra Pak went further by applying for Bonsucro’s Chain of Custody certiﬁcate, creating a competitive advantage for its food and beverage customers, by promoting supply chain traceability for both customers and consumers.
Tetra Pak has reported a positive reaction from customers on its Bonsucro certiﬁcation, with many customers interested in using Bonsucro certiﬁcation logo on pack. Erik Lindroth, Tetra Pak’s Sustainability Director said, “the Bonsucro certiﬁcation was instrumental in securing the world’s ﬁrst certiﬁcation of packaging by the Nordic Swan ecolabel.”
The media interest in the ﬁrst fully traceable plant-based packaging with a fully traceable supply chain was signiﬁcant, with the story reported by more than 100 media outlets in the UK, USA, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Russia. If other packaging companies follow Tetra Pak’s lead, there is real potential to further promote sustainable sugarcane farming. And in turn, help producer communities to thrive.