Celebrating sustainability impacts in sugarcane

20th May 2020

Written by Danielle Morley, CEO.

I recently celebrated my second-year anniversary at Bonsucro which coincides with the launch of our latest outcome report. Reflecting on the last two years, I feel a great sense of pride of what we have achieved and the positive impacts we are making together.

I’ve seen Bonsucro grow steadily and over the last two years we have exceeded our targets for new members and new certifications. Last year, 29 new mills were certified, and we reached new origins including Peru and Costa Rica. Let us hope that these gains can be maintained as we look to beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, and plan for a more resilient economy and green recovery.

Each year, we analyse audit data to understand the on-the ground impacts from Bonsucro certification and publish it in our outcome report. The data that Bonsucro certified mills report on includes their greenhouse gas emissions, water efficiency, agrochemical use as well as social indicators such as worker safety and access to water.

The Outcome Report goes into each of these issues in depth, so I encourage you to have a look. We have also summarised highlights into digital content for anyone to use to celebrate our members’ collective success.

Looking through the figures, I’m struck the immediate improvements that certification offers. After just one year of Bonsucro certification greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by an average of 5.5%, minimum wages increase and water use decreases. But, we also know that sustainability performance continues to improve over time.

Although Bonsucro is most known for our certification system, we also invest in programme work at origins across the world. In the past year, these investments more than doubled and we are working on a wider variety of issues.  We have enjoyed partnerships with fellow ISEAL members Fairtrade International, the Better Cotton Initiative and the Alliance for Water Stewardship. Bonsucro remains an active member of ISEAL and I recently joined their Board of Directors.

Smallholder sugarcane farmers, so vital to the supply chain and to sustainability goals. Over the past couple of years, we have run projects in Thailand, India and Pakistan to support mills and smallholder farmers learn how to apply the Bonsucro Standard and undertake a gap analysis and action plan for improvement.

In Brazil, we partnered with the Earth Innovation Institute and Agroicone to study how best to align with the new Brazilian biofuel policy, Renovabio, to help decrease Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions.  It’s an exciting opportunity and we are taking it forward this year, through piloting joint audits.

As our project work has expanded, we have dedicated more space to them on our website – I encourage you to take a look and see the full scope of our work.

I’m keen to share the message that the impressive data in our report comes because our members invest in sustainability.  Bonsucro is a facilitator – a network of organisations and people who come together to create a powerful global platform for change.  This community is one of my favourite aspects of Bonsucro.  In 2019, we called for input on key policies and procedures, and I was repeatedly impressed by the time, interest and thoughtful feedback that we received.

Our members inputs helped us to develop our new code of conduct and consulted on our Production Standard revision.  I’d like to take this opportunity to reiterate that we are listening to all that you have to say. We are starting work on our next strategy, which I’m sure will help us deliver even more value to members and the wider sector.

As the realities of life with COVID-19 in our communities start to emerge, we must prioritise sustainability in all our operations. With the launch of our outcome report we can celebrate some of the success of 2019, but we also remind you that we are here to help you. We are committed to supporting our members and ensure that producer communities thrive and that sugarcane supply chains are resilient.

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 a Brazilian biofuel policy designed to decrease Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions by 10% by 2029 [compared to 2018], in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change. It aims to do this by incentivising fuel distributors to blend more biofuels into their products. 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 like Bonsucro.