Public Consultation on the Bonsucro Smallholder Standard and Calculator

On 4-5 December, Innovation Forum and Bonsucro hosted the annual Sustainable Sugarcane Forum in London. The event offered brands and end-users in the sugarcane supply chain the chance to discuss the commercial opportunities of implementing sustainability and ethical initiatives, and explored the practicalities of how to ensure their success on-the-ground. A number of issues of particular relevance to small sugarcane producers emerged from the discussions.

Many participants recognised the potential value of certification as a tool to drive more sustainable practice in the sector as a whole, but acknowledged that few small producers are currently able to achieve certification in its current format. Bonsucro has just launched a public consultation on a draft standard and calculator for smallholders, inviting feedback through an online questionnaire. There is market pull for responsible and/or certified product from some big consumer goods companies and some general ambitions around combining efforts to reduce cost and achieve a critical mass and impact in the market. To support decent livelihoods for smallholder sugar cane farmers some delegates felt there is a need to look beyond certification.

In an open international market with tight margins, long term purchase and pricing agreements are rare. Fluid supply chains mitigate against long term investment in the environmental and social performance of smallholder supply bases. However, some promising examples were cited from Central and South America, where sustainability initiatives had been integrated within company business systems, driving continuous improvement coupled to commercial recognition for improved practice, retained within the supply chain. And in the Philippines, the SHARP RSS framework is being used as a basis for a multi-mill initiative to address social & environmental risk factors and small producer livelihood needs across a common supply base, shared by 3 independent sugar mills.

The forum prompted some lively debate on how to align and collaborate more effectively, recognising that where there are shared smallholder supply bases and risks that cannot be fully addressed at the level of smallholder producer groups alone, some framework for pre-commercial collaboration is essential. It was also noted that investment in transformation in smallholder performance must be viable in commercial terms to move beyond CSR/pilot initiatives to move to scale.

Innovation Forum will be hosting a two day conference on How business can make smallholder supply chains resilient, 13-14 March 2018, London, assessing how business can connect the all-encompassing SDGs to their smallholder supply chains – and the business case for doing so.