Living wage in sugarcane

Bonsucro is working to strengthen human rights and decent work in sugarcane farming and milling, which includes addressing wages for the most vulnerable people

Bonsucro is working to strengthen human rights and decent work in sugarcane farming and milling, which includes addressing wages for the most vulnerable people. Our 2021-26 Strategy sets out clear commitments for us to enhance our role as a platform for collaboration and drive collection action towards a living wage in the sugarcane sector.

What is living wage?

The Global Living Wage Coalition (GLWC), is a unique knowledge-action partnership working to enable collaborative action to achieve a decent standard of living for working people and their families worldwide. It defines a living wage as:

“The remuneration received for a standard workweek by a worker in a particular place sufficient to afford a decent standard of living for the worker and her or his family. Elements of a decent standard of living include food, water, housing, education, health care, transportation, clothing, and other essential needs including provision for unexpected events.”

Living wage differs from the minimum wage as it is based on the real cost of living. The concept of the living wage stems from the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights, which states that every adult is entitled to work which provides sufficient income to sustain the livelihood of themself and their family.

We recognise the Anker calculation methodology for living wage benchmarks and reference values as the most credible and we commit to using it whenever possible. The methodology and latest benchmarks and estimates are available here.

Why is living wage important?

The International Labor Organisation says that 300 million workers in emerging and developing countries earn less than US$1.90 per day. Without a living wage, people may be compelled to put their children into work instead of school. Low wages can lead to working excessive overtime hours or multiple jobs which increases the chance of accidents and injury at work, for example, longer hours working in fields will make people more prone to serious illnesses like chronic kidney disease caused by heat stress. People also may not be able to withstand crises such as ill-health.

What is Bonsucro doing to address living wage in the sugarcane sector?

In December 2021, Bonsucro joined the GLWC’s Global Living Wage Action Network. The network brings together sustainability systems, ISEAL, researchers, and other organisations to work together towards living wage action. Our involvement in the coalition will bring opportunities to connect with other members outside the sugarcane sector and learn from their experiences.

Additionally, we collaborated with the Platform Living Wage Financials (PLWF) and CNV Internationaal on the development of their roadmap for living wages in sugarcane. Our role included facilitating consultations with our members. The roadmap offers step by step approach that includes, taking time to prepare for change, assessing the wage gap and forming a plan to promote living wage in the sugarcane sector.

How does the Bonsucro Production Standard V 5.1 address living wage?

The Production Standard has always required the lowest-paid workers to earn the national minimum wage, and on average, Bonsucro certified farms pay an average of 19% above the national minimum wage. However, the new Production Standard (v5.1) takes an important next step on wages. Indicator 2.2.6 asks operators to start collecting data on wages being paid to all direct workers on farms and at mills in the unit of certification. This is not a core indicator, but we know that the data collection exercise will help operators and Bonsucro build an understanding of potential gaps between the actual wages being paid and the living wage applicable in the region.

How will the new indicator be implemented?

To capture data on wages, we intend to partner with the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) to use its Salary Matrix – a tool developed for other sustainability initiatives. We are finalising how to ensure the partnership is successful and beneficial to all our stakeholders. We plan to pilot the Salary Matrix with volunteers from our membership. In the meantime, we have made a provision for this interim situation in the Standard transition policy.

Why do we need to work together?

Living wage is a complex topic and requires collaboration and shared responsibility along the value chain from producers to end users. The new Production Standard enables visibility on the gap between actual wages and living wages so that we, as a platform, are equipped with the most relevant up to date information to allow us to work together to promote the improvement of wages in sugarcane production.

Bonsucro’s Living Wage Working Group

The Bonsucro Living Wage Working Group is a multi-stakeholder group composed of Bonsucro members, partners, and experts. Membership remains open to any interested stakeholder. The working group was created and reports to the Bonsucro’s Members’ Council and has two main objectives:

  1. Provide views, advice, and informed opinions to the Members’ Council and Secretariat about the development, implementation, and application of living wages in the sugarcane sector and Bonsucro’s approach and impact.
  2. Facilitate and guide the implementation of the Bonsucro strategic plan and the Bonsucro Production Standard on living wage.
MemberOrganisationMembership CategoryCountry
Priya AgrawalUnileverBuyerNetherlands
Maurice van BeersCNV InternationaalNGONetherlands
Alexandra BlandónIngenio San AntonioProducerNicaragua
Anthony EdmondsDonovale FarmsProducerSouth Africa
Juan Carlos Fernandez QuezadaAsociación de Azucareros del Istmo Centroamericano (AICA)Producer AssociationGuatemala
Alex KollbergSystembolagetGovernment organisationSweden
Renato MachadoSocicanaProducer AssociationBrazil
Katie Morison
HersheyBuyerUnited States
Virginia PraganaControl UnionCertification BodyBrazil
Luis Fernando Salazar RosasUnión de Azucareros Latinoamericanos (UNALA)Producer AssociationGuatemala
Meredith SmithED&F ManTraderUK
Evan WatsonLa Isla NetworkNGOUnited States

If you are interested in joining the Living Wage Working Group, email our Membership Manager, Rafael Seixas.