Markets working to support sustainable development

Bonsucro (Better Sugar Initiative)

Bonsucro is a set of standards that tackle the environmental and social impact of sugar production and processing.

Bonsucro’s production standards are based on 5 principles:

  • Obey the law
  • Respect human rights and labour standards
  • Manage inputs, production and processing efficiencies to enhance sustainability
  • Actively manage biodiversity and ecosystem services
  • Continuously improve key areas of business

To ensure traceability, 17 chains of custody standards are in use. All stages of the supply chain must adhere to certain procedures. Presently a mass balance model is used. This means that a percentage of the product, in this case sugar, is certified however it is mixed with non-certified sugar too. This allows companies to claim that a product contains x% certified sugar. In the future it is expected that a model based on full segregation of certified and non-certified product will be developed and used.

To achieve certification there has to be compliance with 80% of indicators of the principles for both production and chain of custody requirements plus full compliance with core criteria.

Bonsucro claims that certification produces several benefits to sugar cane producers, processors and traders:

  • Improving quality and productivity whilst reducing costs - which should lead to increased profits. In addition it will help to distinguish certified producers from conventional growers
  • Certification demonstrates commitment to sustainability and allows responsible claims to be made in the marketplace.

The Bonsucro logo can be used on products containing certified sugar cane or sugar cane products. A licensing fee is payable for its use.

Market coverage: 

Bonsucro has given out 46 production certificates, which equates to 930,519.41 hectares of certified sugar cane, or 3.91% of the total area of sugar cane production or 3.60% of the total amount of sugar produced globally. Currently, certified production is in Brazil, Australia and Honduras.

Background information: 

Bonsucro is a multi-stakeholder organisation incorporated as a not-for-profit in the UK. It brings together different actors and is designed to promote standards for environmentally and socially sustainable sugar cane.

In 2008, Bonsucro established three technical working groups to work on developing standards: social & labour; processing and milling; agronomic practices. After several periods of public consultation, revisions and pilot testing the standard was launched in November 2010. An update of the production standard is currently underway (09/2013).

One way to buy/sell Bonsucro certified products is through their Credit Trading System which was awarded full membership of ISEAL in 2012 - the global membership association for sustainability standards.

Bonsucro has 207 members from various countries and sectors across the world. These are predominantly companies and grower associations involved in the sugar cane sector.

Funding source: 

Bonsucro is funded by membership fees. These are not publically available and are determined on an individual basis by the Board of Directors.

Notable information: 

The Bonsucro Standard also includes a section for ‘mandatory requirement for biofuels under EU Renewable Energy directive’. Sugar cane is a major biofuel. Bonsucro EU certified sugar can be used as a biofuel legally in the EU, whilst also demonstrating adherence to the Bonsucro standards. This signals how voluntary certification schemes can also be used to comply with existing regulatory requirements.