How Bacardi and Bonsucro Are Revolutionizing the Sugarcane Sector

How Bacardi and Bonsucro Are Revolutionizing the Sugarcane Sector

Bacardi is dedicated to maintaining sustainable operations around the world. In 2014, the company launched Good Spirited: Building a Sustainable Future, consolidating its long history of environmental and social consciousness into a single, unified corporate initiative. The three prongs of Good Spirited set sustainable goals in the areas of global packaging, operational efficiencies, and responsible sourcing — the last of which has sparked collaborative efforts between Bacardi and the sugarcane industry.

A Key Ingredient

sugarcaneAs the source of molasses, a key ingredient in BACARDÍ rum, sugarcane is a crucial link in the Bacardi supply chain. Molasses is created by boiling sugarcane into a thick syrup, then removing any solid sugar crystals to leave behind the dark, viscous liquid we know as molasses. At Bacardi’s distillation facilities, molasses is combined with demineralized water and the 154-year-old La Levadura BACARDÍ yeast strain in massive 50,000 gallon tanks. As the yeast feeds on the sugar in the molasses, it yields alcohol, transforming the mixture into the mash that serves as the basis of the world’s most-honored brand of rum.

Sugar is one of Fiji’s primary exports, making the island nation a valuable producer of molasses. Another integral aspect of Fiji’s economy is the Great Sea Reef which, in addition to being one of the largest barrier reefs and most impressive marine habitats in the world, provides 80 percent of the country’s domestic fish market. Unfortunately, Fiji’s sugarcane farms have the potential to damage the Great Sea Reef, as water and seed runoff from agricultural operations can disrupt the reef’s natural ecosystem.

As part of its sustainable sourcing initiative, Bacardi has worked to implement model sustainable sugarcane farms in Fiji. Bacardi and the World Wildlife Federation have partnered to educate farmers on sustainable farming practices that protect the Great Sea Reef while maximizing sugarcane production, such as the strategic spacing of sugarcane rows and crop terracing.

Bacardi is currently on track to derive 40 percent of its sugarcane products from certified sustainable sources by 2017 and hopes to achieve 100 percent sustainable sourcing by 2022. The global brand is working toward this goal with the support of Bonsucro, an international nonprofit of which Bacardi is a founding member.

Seeking Sustainable Standards

In order to improve the sustainability of their operations, organizations must have an understanding of how they are currently impacting society and the environment, and they should also have access to sustainability benchmarks in order to develop their new goals. Since 2007, Bonsucro has worked to provide this crucial information to the sugarcane sector. By working with organizations throughout the supply chain to develop clear production standards, the organization aims to reduce the negative impact of sugarcane production on the environment and society. This collaborative effort aims to create a continuously improving sugarcane industry that is not only socially and environmentally sustainable, but also economically viable.

Headquartered in London, Bonsucro includes more than 400 members from 31 nations, ranging from farmers to industrial processing facilities, as well as end users such as Bacardi. Together, they have developed the Bonsucro Standard: a framework of sustainable benchmarks in the areas of environmental sustainability, legal compliance, and human rights.

The Bonsucro Standard

sugarcane harvestThe Bonsucro Standard includes both the Bonsucro Production Standard and the Bonsucro Mass Balance Chain of Custody Standard. While the former provides criteria for sustainable sugarcane production in the economic, social, and environmental spheres, the latter presents technical and administrative criteria to ensure sustainable processes at all levels of the supply chain. By adhering to the complete standard, sugarcane suppliers earn the right to sell their products as Bonsucro-certified — an internationally recognized mark signifying their commitment to responsible business practices.

First and foremost, the principles of the Bonsucro Standard require that member organizations comply with all applicable laws. They also require that companies respect all standards for human rights and labor conditions, including conventions set by the International Labour Organization to provide a safe and healthy working environment for their employees. Under the Bonsucro Standard, certified members must actively manage the ecosystem near the operations, which includes the ongoing assessment of their own impact on the region’s biodiversity, and they must strive for continuous improvement throughout all key business areas. This includes a commitment to advancing administrative matters such as employee training, while also improving sustainability in areas such as energy and water efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste management. The final principle of the Bonsucro Standard bolsters the framework’s sustainability requirements by setting specific biofuel standards under the EU Renewable Energy Directive and Fuel Quality Directive. To earn Bonsucro certification, member organizations must fall below a specific threshold for global warming burden per unit of energy, and must not operate in areas determined to have a high biodiversity value.

Making Progress

Bonsucro aims to certify 20 percent of the sugarcane industry by 2017. At present, the nonprofit has awarded 51 production certificates for over 1 million hectares of surface sugarcane, an amount that accounts for just over 4 percent of the global sugarcane crop.

Bonsucro continues to educate the entire industry on the importance and feasibility of sustainable operations, providing a variety of resources and events for current and prospective members. This includes the annual Bonsucro Week, which welcomes all parties interested in the sustainable production and processing of sugarcane. Bonsucro held its 2015 Bonsucro Week in Brazil, where it led participants on site visits to the Bonsucro-certified São Manoel Farm and Mill, as well as world-renowned research centers Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira and the Brazilian Bioethanol Science and Technology Laboratory, providing ample opportunities for attendees to explore strategies, challenges, and innovation in the area of sustainable agriculture. In addition to learning from leading scientists and researchers, Bonsucro Week participants also had the opportunity to shape the future of the organization during the event’s stakeholder consultation day, during which individual and institutional members offer their own insight on Bonsucro’s strategies, governance, funding, and objectives going forward.