WWF in Action: Brazil

A Sweeter Approach to Sugar Production

Thanks to sugar production certification standards supported by WWF, many popular products – from soda to chocolate – will now contain sugar that was grown, harvested and processed to meet industry-best sustainability standards for the environment and human rights.

Raizen Sugar Company, the largest sugarcane company in the world, helped confirm the viability of the movement to sustainability when it received Bonsucro certification on 130,000 tons of sugar and 63 million liters of ethanol. Bonsucro is a global multi-stakeholder initiative dedicated to reducing the environmental and social impacts of sugar cane production, which was developed from WWF’s long running Better Sugar Cane Initiative.

This first batch of certified products was sold to other WWF partners, including Unilever, Braskem and The Coca-Cola Company. Since then, 16 sugarcane mills have been certified in Brazil. By the end of 2011, Bonsucro-certified mills had produced approximately 1.6 million tons of sugar.

This is good news for freshwater and marine ecosystems around the world such as the Mesoamerican and Great Barrier reefs, which are threatened by runoff from unsustainable sugarcane production.

Sugarcane is a water-intensive crop that remains in the soil all year long. As one of the world’s thirstiest crops, sugarcane has a significant impact on many environmentally sensitive regions, like the Mekong Delta and the Atlantic Forest. Historic planting of sugarcane around the world has led to significant impacts on biodiversity.

“It took less than one year for certified sugar to take off,” says Kevin Ogorzalek, WWF’s manager for agricultural commodities and field programs. “We’ve gone from zero to 2 percent of global production area, with sustainable producers in two of the largest sugarcane producing countries. And producers from around the world are signing up to get involved all the time.”