Towards Sustainable Sweetness – Bonsucro, Sugarcane & Coca-cola3 min read

Kaixin Zhang

Bonsucro is a global multi-stakeholder non-profit organization that exists to promote sustainable sugarcane production, processing and trade around the world. Bonsucro supports a community of over 280 members in over 50 countries, drawn from all elements of the sugarcane supply chain, including, farmers, millers, traders, buyers and support organizations. It was originally the Better Sugarcane Initiative – an industry body set up to develop a production standard with the aim to reduce the environmental and social impacts of sugarcane.

Bonsucro engages with their suppliers to ensure the agricultural ingredients are sourced sustainably. According to Bonsucro, Coca-Cola worked with farmers to improve agricultural practices to save water or to reduce pollution. Also, Coca-cola accepted help from some partners like WWF, who could better advise them.They advised Coca-cola as to what and where changes in agricultural practices were needed to have the biggest benefits for watershed conservation while being cost effective. Taking this approach, a step further, Coca-Cola evaluated how voluntary sustainable farming standards, such as Bonsucro, could help drive changes to better farming practices and achieve conservation benefits at a larger scale.

Following the Bonsucro standard, Coco-Cola would reduce water use by 65% and nutrient loading by 34%, but also increase yield by 15%, which is an important message for farmers. Coca-Cola has thus achieved sustainable farming certification or external assurance for all sugar used in Australia (Bonsucro).

Coca-Cola Amatil, a branch of Coca-Cola, committed to use 100% sustainable cane sugar in its entire Australian non-alcoholic drinks range and plans to go further towards sustainabilty. It will only use cane sugar from growers that have been independently certified in terms of sustainable production under certification by the production frameworks Bonsucro and Smartcane Best Management Practice (BMP). Since 2014, Smartcane BMP has been working with cane farmers across Queensland to record and verify their practice improvements. This has helped increase confidence and secure growers’ reputation as stewards of the land. Growers need to be recognize their role in good soil health and nutrition, irrigation and drainage, weed and pest management, so that cane sugar production becomes sustainable.

“The shift to sustainable certification of sugar is an improvement in our overall operations and in meeting the needs of our customers,” said Group Managing Director Alison Watkins, describing the move as a ‘good environmental and commercial decision’.

This move is part of Coca-Cola Amatil’s overall sustainability goals targeted to be achieved by the end of 2020, which includes a reducing its carbon footprint of its drinks by 25% (as compared to 2010) and using 60% renewable and low-carbon energy in its operations. Towards these aims, Coca-Cola Amatil has signed sustainable sugar purchasing contracts that will last until 2021. The focus of this work is to protect the ecological environment of the Great Barrier Reef by reducing water and agricultural runoff from sugarcane plantations in northern Queensland so that it cannot enter the Great Barrier Reef.

(Source: 2018 Coca-Cola Sustainability Report)