Sugar cane organisation Bonsucro launched Bonsucro Connect in January – a new cloud-based technology platform that will enable its global web of members to connect with one another to verify the sustainability standard of their sugar cane and streamline the global sugar supply chain.
The platform will go live to Bonsucro’s members in April, following a positive market response in the testing phases.
Bonsucro Africa and Middle East regional director Boudewijn Goossens explains that with the internationally accepted Bonsucro Production Standard – a production and chain of custody standard approved by Bonsucro members – producers of sugar cane-derived products can demonstrate their verified sustainability credentials.
The supply chains that carry the products to their final destinations are often global, complex and difficult to analyse. As a result, Bonsucro Connect provides an efficient means of verifying grower sustainability standards by enabling users to demonstrate their sustainability standard to other industry stakeholders and monitor the standard in their own supply chain.
“It will enable buyers to trace their supply and develop robust sourcing strategies to support producers of sustainable sugar cane-derived products, and, in turn, to prove their compliance with the Bonsucro Production Standard.”
The online platform is being developed in partnership with technology developer Supply Shift, and features the Bonsucro Production Standard calculator, visualisation of mill and farm performance for producers, live benchmarking through a smart dashboard, volume and trade management of certified material for traceability, facilitation of the audit process and scorecards to track a company’s progress.
“Supply Shift’s cloud-based technology will empower companies to track supply data easily and in real time, enabling traceability and transparency in supply chains, as well as secure tools for producers to benchmark and analyse their performance using the highest-level security protocols to ensure confidentiality and privacy.”
Sustainability at the Fore
Goossens stresses that Bonsucro Connect is an important tool for connecting local stakeholders in the sugar industry with one another, as well as with those worldwide, and to assist them in embracing a holistic approach to improving their operations.
He adds that the approach of considering one’s business through the lens of sustainability – economic, environmental and social – is being increasingly embraced by sugar-producing regions globally. “Often, the challenges faced by the sugar industry are interlinked and this approach enables sugar producers to connect their agendas to those of other stakeholders and work together to address common threats.”
The South African sugar industry is recovering from a record drought that severely impacted on sugar cane production last year, and as it is water-stressed country, with the inevitable effects of climate change, water scarcity is likely to be an ongoing challenge. In addition, the local industry is subject to relatively high labor costs, strict legislation, relatively limited scale of production units and farmer succession issues.
The South African sugar industry is dominated by commercial family farming, whereas Latin America and other African countries are dominated by industrial estates. South African farmers, thus, have to compete in the global market against players that often have better access to capital, cheaper land, lower labour costs and, in some cases, high-price consumer markets, such as in the European Union and the US. South Africa is, subsequently, heavily reliant on the local market, and requires good collaboration between its farmers and mills.
“The level of organisation in the industry is one of its strengths and this also facilitates improved sustainability performance,” Goossens says, highlighting the Sustainable Sugarcane Farm Management System as an example. The system aims to reduce the South African sugar industry’s impact on biodiversity and ecosystems through a guideline programme that is based on economic, social and environmental principles.
He adds that the local sugar industry is relatively technologically advanced in comparison to many other sugar cane-producing countries, and has much expertise in this field to share with producers in the rest of the world to help make their operations more viable and resilient.
“Bonsucro’s mission is to promote thriving, sustainable sugar cane-producing communities and resilient, assured supply chains globally. We want to ensure that responsible sugar cane production creates lasting value for the people, communities, businesses, economies and ecosystems in all cane-growing regions. We do this by harnessing the strengths of our global network of members, using their combined resources, knowledge and influence to solve locally relevant issues in globally credible ways.”
Goossens points out that the problems faced by sugar industries globally are often very similar. “Why solve them one by one? Instead, we hope to effectively connect sugar cane sectors in different countries to one another and to powerful collective agendas, such as climate change, which will benefit greatly from international collaboration.”
Bonsucro is also in the early phase of developing a productivity and professionalism programme, which will help to advise the local sugar industry on major themes, such as facilitating the transition to mechanical harvesting, organising small-scale growers in more bankable ways that will encourage investment from development banks and the sugar industry as a potential source of renewable energy.
“Our main aim is to support businesses in the sugar industry by linking them to funders, service providers, inspiring examples and a shared global development agenda. Bonsucro Connect provides a highly efficient means of further facilitating this,” concludes Goossens.