Magazine article International Trade Forum

Global Standards: Sweeten Sugar for Buyers

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Global Standards: Sweeten Sugar for Buyers

Article excerpt


With biofuels becoming more prominent on the global market, production is being expanded in Brazil, Asia and Africa. This expansion has environmental groups concerned that sugar cane's environmental impact--deforestation, the high use of fertilizers, residue bum-off, harsh and dangerous conditions for workers in fields and mills, high water consumption and threats to biodiversity--outweighs the economic and social benefits.

To help achieve sustainable sugar production, BSI was formed in 2005 as a not-for-profit organization involving sugar retailers, investors, traders, producers and non-governmental organizations. Members include some major corporations, including Shell, BR The Coca-Cola Company and Ferrero, and small family farmers working on just half a hectare, or an acre, of land.

Four years of research and public and industry consultation have led to the first-ever world standards for sugar cane production. BSI standards, developed using the ISEAL code of good practice, were finalized at the end of 2009, and the first accredited ethanol is expected to be released in November 2010. This will be the first of the world's new globally accredited sugar cane products.

The standards embody social, environmental and sustainability targets in one document and incorporate 49 measureable criteria capturing the core concerns of buyers and consumers, including labour, social impacts, climate change, pollution and high-conservation-value land use.

BSI standards for the production of sugar and sugar cane products are designed to be accessible to corporations of all sizes and BSI is committed to helping them gain accreditation. One of the objectives of BSI is to contain costs and to help growers save money by using inputs such as energy, fertilizers and water more efficiently and minimizing losses and wastage. For example, increasing sugar cane trash retention benefits the environment by reducing the amount of cane that is burnt. It is also good for soil ecology and provides a boost to soil nutrients, which reduces the use of inorganic fertilizers, saving farmers money.

The standards provide advantages to buyers and sellers. For buyers, BSI-accredited cane growers or ethanol producers ensure that they are adhering to world best practice. For sellers, it can provide access to new markets that might in the past have questioned the environmental credentials of their product.

The standards incorporate not only principles regarding the minimization of environmental harm, but equally enshrine respect for human rights and internationally recognized labour standards. BSI standards are organized around five core principles:

1. Obey the law

2. Respect human rights and labour standards

3. Manage input, production and processing efficiencies to enhance sustainability

4. Manage biodiversity and ecosystem services actively

5. Improve continuously key areas of the business.

The standards provide an auditable set of benchmarks that accredited growers and processors must meet, with specific criteria underpinning core principles. …

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