New report highlights progress on sustainability in sugarcane production

The expansion of cropland for agricultural commodities such as sugar, soy, and palm oil is an important driver of deforestation in the tropics. EII and its partners work to reduce the negative impacts of expanding commodity production on forests by supporting regional dialogues and sustainability targets across jurisdictions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase productivity, and improve livelihoods.

The latest annual report released by EII partner Bonsucro shows encouraging signs in its efforts to bring greater sustainability and equity to the global sugar trade. With gains in both the environment and workers’ rights the findings highlight the value-added benefits that accrue to sugarcane producers and companies alike by adopting sustainable practices.

According to Bonsucro’s 2018-2019 Outcome Report, nearly 6% of sugarcane land worldwide is now certified under the organization’s sustainability standard system, while emissions at newly certified mills fell by 5.5% within one year of gaining certification. Wages for workers at certified mills, meanwhile, were 20% higher than national minimum wages.

The data come from Bonsucro’s own reporting tool that measures production against global sustainability indicators.

Other highlights in the report include increased crop yields coupled with decreases in water use. The report noted that in 2019, 4.9 million tonnes of sugar used 2.2 million m3 less water than in 2017, while yields increased by a global average of 8.65 additional tonnes per hectare.

In 2019, EII partnered with Bonsucro to support Brazil’s efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2029 as agreed to under the Paris Agreement through a national biofuel program known as RenovaBio. The voluntary program prohibits deforestation and rewards producers for reduced carbon emissions via decarbonizaton credits on the global carbon market.

Brazil is one of the world’s top sugar cane producers, much of it for use in the nation’s biofuel sector.

The collaboration between EII and Bonsucro sought to help align the latter’s sustainability standards with those of RenovaBio and to see how those standards might be extended across a wider region. Results of the partnership are now being incorporated into Bonsucro’s own production standards.

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