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At its annual conference in Manila last month, ISEAL member Bonsucro brought together sugarcane farmers, millers, traders, and retail companies from all corners of the world. While bringing sustainability to the mainstream is still a long journey for the industry, the spirit of collaboration is alive. It seemed fitting that the conference was held in the Philippines, the country which was rocked last year by Super Typhoon Yolanda, a devastating reminder of the impacts of climate change. Bonsucro, the metric-based standard for sustainable sugarcane production, aims to tackle issues such as carbon emissions, yields and labour conditions, making the industry more viable from an environmental, economic and social perspective. Opening the conference, Head of Engagement Natasha Schwarzbach pointed to the typhoon as a sobering reminder of the need for tools such as certification to help the world “embrace practices that encompass sustainability, while pursuing profitability and productivity.”The focal point of Bonsucro’s work is to drive the mainstream adoption of sustainability and it is doing so through what it calls a value chain approach. As stated by Nicolas Viart, Head of Sustainability, “We cannot just look at one piece of the jigsaw puzzle, we need to bring in the whole value chain”. Like many sectors, the sugarcane supply chain is complex, and so certification cannot simply be an arrangement between leading companies, eager consumers and well-resourced producers if it is going to reach scale. Bonsucro’s commitment to facilitating connections within the supply chain is embedded in its governance structure – with spaces allocated to farmers, refiners/millers, intermediaries, end-users and civil society.Across the day, it was refreshing to hear the perspectives of different supply chain actors who each made unique contributions and noted particular challenges in the road to sustainability. Speaking on a panel about the Asia-Pacific market, a representative from a milling cooperative in Australia commented that one of the difficulties has been overcoming early sugarcane grower distrust towards certification as they initially saw it as being driven refiner-driven. “We need the refiners and the millers to communicate the benefits to farmers,” he urged. Echoing this sentiment was Ant Edmonds, a sugarcane farmer from South Africa, who pushed for “strong grower leadership.” He pointed out that farmers are the ones who need to implement sustainable practices so we need to ensure they have ownership in the sustainability model that is put forth.A panel session on supply chain collaboration provided further insights into the roles of different actors in the sustainability journey. Diane Stevenson, from an American sugarcane trading company spoke of how they play an important intermediary role – helping farmers to understand the business drivers and end-users to understand the conditions on the ground. Explaining how her company initially heard of Bonsucro, she said: “the more people are talking about certification, the more it will drive change down the supply chain.” Also on the panel was Alex Bjork of WWF, who reinforced the NGO role of bringing together brands and retailers in a pre-competitive fashion. He encouraged end-users to “plant the flag of leadership” and take the first step.Providing the perspective of the end-user was Denise Knight from Coca-Cola, who offered the opening remarks. She was honest about the scale of the problem – with 70% of water consumption globally being accounted for by agriculture and 80% of rural people who depend on agriculture earning less than $2 per day – but expressed great confidence in sustainability standards to help generate solutions. Explaining Coke’s goals to uphold worker rights, build sustainable communities and protect the environment, she noted that the “preferred approach for meeting sustainability goals is through 3rd party certification”, and she offered that in 2015 Coke would begin taking Bonsucro certified shipments.Local relevance keyLooking towards the future, Bonsucro has its sights set on increasing its relevance and uptake in emerging markets and developing countries. New CEO Simon Usher was very earnest in his opening speech on the main day of the conference, pointing out that 45% of Bonsucro’s members are Brazilian, with Asia-Pacific membership coming in at just 10% despite India, China, Thailand, Pakistan the Philippines, and Indonesia being among the top 10 global producers. “This is why we’re here in the Philippines for this conference,” said Usher. Bonsucro put the first building block in place for its expansion, announcing at the conference that SABMiller\'s Azunosa mill in Honduras had become the first in Central America to achieve certification.The conference was an incredible opportunity for all those involved to learn about the different regional and local conditions of sugarcane production. This includes variations in the relationships between cane cutters and mills, which have a strong bearing on the drivers of sustainability. In Brazil it is very common for a mill to own and lease the land on which the sugarcane is grown, giving it more direct power over production practices, but elsewhere the types of contracts and ownership models are very different. The sugarcane situation in India is particularly fascinating since most farmers cultivate on 1-2 hectares, necessitating a strong focus on smallholder capacity building. Bonsucro ambassador Dr. Gopinathan Mumbully called Bonsucro certification the “ultimate frugal innovation in the value chain in India.”Early signs of positive impactsThe conference also highlighted some early evidence of the impacts of Bonsucro certification. From its own impacts reports, Rafael Seixas, Research and Policy Analyst with Bonsucro pointed to a range of data showing that, for example, 83% of certified mills have above average yields and 97% of mills consume less water than the strictest requirements of the standard.Agricoicone, a leading Brazilian research agency, also presented the results of a study commissioned by Shell, Solidaridad and the International Finance Corporation to look into the business case for Bonsucro certification. It showed that investments in compliance with the Bonsucro Production Standard have resulted in significant operational benefits for mills in Brazil and has also helped to drive compliance with Brazilian laws. You can read more about the study here.For information and resources from Bonsucro Week, click here. The organisation is also hosting a public consultation on its chain of custody standard, which you can read about here.Blog Settings Node reference: Can Bonsucro be a transformative force in the sugarcane industry? Sustainable sugarcane certification reaches Central America
ISEAL is working with its members to lower the costs and burdens of certification for small producers through a range of shared learning approaches. A three-year partnership with Hivos has fueled much of this work, with innovations of the third-party certification model at the forefront of the work to take standards systems to scale and allow more producers to participate and see the business case. Strengthening the effectiveness of sustainability standards systems is the mission of ISEAL, and a major strategy to achieve this mission is to improve the effectiveness of standards systems, particularly in areas where there are improvements needed or barriers that need to be removed. Over the last three years, ISEAL has been collaborating with Hivos to increase access to sustainability standards for smallholders. Much of the partnership has been focused on shared learning within the ISEAL community. By collaborating and building trust with each other, while also learning about changing market needs, ISEAL members are working to become more efficient and effective so as to improve their sustainability impacts. Particularly in agriculture, there is increasing recognition that the value proposition of assurance (certification and verification) needs to shift from a strict compliance focus to one that more actively includes learning and improvement and that provides increasing value for small producers. ISEAL members have identified a growing trend to look beyond the ISO compliance model and have expressed a willingness to explore other less formal models of assurance, with research and testing done within the ISEAL community. These less formal models take more of a risk-based approach to understanding where the risks are to the integrity of the system and focusing both the compliance activities and the capacity building activities in those areas. In practice, this could look like standards systems that integrate rigorous, sample-based independent assessments with other tools such as self-checks, training and/or second-party inspections.Over the course of the last year, ISEAL has stimulated new thinking and reimagining of assurance models through two research papers on learning and assurance, and risk-based models of assurance respectively. These research papers informed workshops for ISEAL members’ technical experts. We follow that up with directed member interviews to map out priorities for where ISEAL will facilitate the drive towards innovations in assurance, defining a set of activities that seeks to improve the efficiency of assurance and improve producer capacity to meet certification requirements. This list of priorities informed a second workshop and a plan to support members to integrate and test some of these innovations in their systems. One of the strengths of the ISEAL Assurance Code (a membership requirement within ISEAL) is that it supports assurance models that are more accessible for smallholders and fit for purpose. ISEAL is now planning a more ambitious innovation agenda to transform the effectiveness of assurance so that it remains a viable and important tool to support the transformation of key sectors to more sustainable production. We recognise that if we are truly to take sustainability standards systems to scale and to address global challenges like poverty, deforestation and climate change, we need to streamline these tools and to rebalance the cost benefit ratio so that producers and supply chain actors see the business case for using these tools.By taking advantage of new technologies, strengthening the capacity and skills of certifiers and auditors, and bringing varied sources of information and data together to provide a better picture of where there are risks to non-compliance, we feel that there is potential to dramatically improve the accessibility and effectiveness of certification and verification.ISEAL is also beginning to have a dialogue with companies to facilitate a consultative process that builds a shared vision between businesses and standards systems for the future of innovative, scalable assurance tools.
Navigating the jungle of sustainability claims and labels in the marketplace is a hard job. But a first important step is to simply know what type of label you are looking at. Responsible businesses ask basic questions of their sustainability partners first, before choosing or developing an ethical claim. Claims and labels shouting about sustainability, responsibility and ethical purchasing are running rampant across our products and services. Many labels are credible, based on rigorous systems and tools. Others are simply exercises in marketing and clever word choice. So how does a buyer or sustainability professional in a company know when to develop or work with a claim-setting partner? They ask important questions, starting with ones that help them understand the type of claim the partner is offering. What are those basic types of sustainability claims and labels out there? Here’s a short primer…Membership labels – These labels say things like “member of the Earth project.” They are not necessarily about the product itself, but tell you about a company’s entry into or commitment to some kind of sustainability initiative.Guide or Listing labels – These labels say things like “we’re listed in the Eco-book.” They might say something about the product’s sustainability but a lot depends on the rigor and requirements of being listed in such an index, guide or list.Award Labels – These labels say things like “First Prize in the Planet Care Awards,” and like the guide labels, they could mean rigorous requirements for winning an award, but they could also be about a company’s leader, philanthropy, or about other company attributes and relationships.Philanthropy Labels – These labels say things like “2% of our profit goes to clean water projects” and these were very popular in the past decade or two to help a company explain their charitable activities, sometimes in communities affected by their operations. But it’s important to ask if the philanthropy is linked to the company’s own sustainability footprint, or if they are separate (while still possibly worthy) activities.Endorsement Labels – These labels say things like “Endorsed by the Protection for Animals Alliance” and can be a bit mysterious. It’s important to ask about the credibility of the non-profit group making the endorsement and their own requirements for offering a stamp of approval on a product or company.Transparency/QR Code Labels – These newer and exciting labels provide a QR code on a product and often some kind of text alongside it, such as “made locally” or “ethically harvested.” By scanning the code on the label, more information is sent directly to the consumer. The hope is that these labels will provide a more direct, radical type of transparency in sustainability claims.Company-own reporting labels – These labels are also becoming more popular now and might say something like “we’ve reduced our waste by 75%” or offer another kind of self-assessed claim. In some cases, these claims are also backed up by independent checks. It’s important to ask careful questions of a company doing its own sustainability reporting that results in an on-product claim.Score Labels – These labels are complex and interesting, and might have some kind of score or grade on them, backed up usually by some kind of independent check by a group who has created the scoring system. Many are related to energy, chemicals, toxicity or other measurable impacts areas. Some of these are also called EPDs or “environmental product declarations.”Sustainability Standards / Certification Labels – These labels include those offered by ISEAL members. They would use the word \"certified\" in many cases. They relate to compliance with a code or standard and the certification or verification is a check done on the practices for a specific sector, supply chain, product or commodity. In many cases the certification is done by an independent party. These can be credible, or not credible, and it depends a great deal on the standards system itself: its processes for standard-setting, verifying compliance, and monitoring the impacts it is trying to achieve. ISEAL members strive towards credibility by following the ISEAL Codes of Good Practice and the ISEAL Credibility Principles.These are not all of the types of claims out there. It’s important to remember that understanding the type of claim doesn’t necessarily mean certain categories are more credible than others. There can be credible examples in each of the label types above, and in other types, but a buyer needs to understand the differences and choose based on their own sustainability objectives. Overall, transparency and truthfulness are paramount in making on-product claims, and a good company buyer will dig deep and ask what lies behind the label.ISEAL is working in early 2015 to develop a set of tools that will help companies untangle the jungle of sustainability claims. In addition, ISEAL will also soon publish an in-depth Claims Good Practice Guide that will deliver technical information and detailed examples to help standard-setters develop, manage and monitor their sustainability claims. The Claims Good Practice Guide has been undergoing public consultation for its development over the last year. A second consultation is open now to the public, and ends 30th January. We welcome all input on the Claims Good Practice Guide.Blog Settings Node reference: Claims consultation driving discussion about percentage-based claims Second consultation on Claims Good Practice Guide now open How some sustainability labels can lead us astray
Coalition of civil society groups voices opposition to industry lobby group\'s \'worrying deregulatory tendency\'
At its annual conference, this year taking place in the Philippines, ISEAL full member Bonsucro announced that SABMiller\'s Azunosa mill had become the first in Central America to achieve certification, marking an important milestone for the multi-stakeholder initiative whose certified area has now reached 3.7% of land under cane production. Press release originally accessed on CSR Newswire--Certification of the SABMiller Azucarera del Norte (\"Azunosa\") sugarcane production operation and mill in Honduras to the Bonsucro® sustainable sugarcane standard represents a \"first\" on several counts. SCS Global Services (SCS), the accredited third-party certification body that conducted the assessment, presented the Bonsucro certificate to SABMiller in an event marking the first certification of a sugarcane production operation in Central America, and the first issued to a primary sugar mill in the developing world. It was also the first certification issued under the newest version of the Bonsucro Production Standard (v4), which was published in late September after completing a two-year development process.\"This achievement not only represents a significant accomplishment by SABMiller and the Azunosa team, but it also proves that Bonsucro\'s rigorous requirements can be met in developing countries around the world, including Latin America, Africa and Asia,\" said Neil Mendenhall, SCS Manager of Supply Chain Services. More than 40 social and environmental indicators were evaluated at the mill and farm levels, he explained.Bonsucro is an international not-for-profit, multi-stakeholder organization established to promote sustainable sugar cane production. The Bonsucro standard is regarded as a leading benchmark for sustainable development in the sugar sector.\"SABMiller\'s Azunosa mill\'s achievement demonstrates that leadership, supply chain collaboration and commitment is proof of concept that Bonsucro Certification is possible,\" said Simon Usher, Bonsucro CEO. \"This announcement was certainly a highlight during our international conference held last week in Manila, Philippines.\"The Azunosa certification caps a three-year effort by the company, and is part of SABMiller\'s larger sustainable development initiative, Prosper, which encompasses ambitious sustainability goals to be achieved by the year 2020.About Bonsucro. Bonsucro is a global non-profit, multi-stakeholder organization fostering the sustainability of the sugarcane sector through its leading metric-based certification scheme and its support for continuous improvement for members. Its vision is to support a sugarcane sector that is continuously improving and verified as sustainable.About SCS Global Services. SCS has been providing global leadership in third-party environmental and sustainability certification, auditing, testing, and standards development for three decades. Programs span a cross-section of industries, recognizing achievements in green building, manufacturing, food and agriculture, forestry, and more. SCS is a Certified B Corporation™, reflecting its commitment to socially and environmentally responsible business practices.About SABMiller. SABMiller is in the beer and soft drinks business, bringing refreshment and sociability to millions of people all over the world. We are the world\'s second largest brewer, produce our own soft drinks and are one of the world\'s largest bottlers of Coca-Cola drinks. Through our local businesses we work in a way that improves livelihoods and builds communities. Equitable Origin certifies first oil production site Clam fishery becomes first in India to achieve MSC certification Can Bonsucro be a transformative force in the sugarcane industry?
Major US jewellery companies and retailers have started to take substantive steps to eliminate the presence of \"conflict gold\" from their supply chains, a new report has revealed.
Palm oil giant Musim Mas Group has suspended purchases from the PT Pati Sari mill over allegations that the facility is processing fruit illegally grown within a biodiversity hotspot in Sumatra,...
ANSI Launches New Pilot Accreditation Program to Determine Eligibility of a Type I Environmental Labeling ...
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), coordinator of the U.S. voluntary standardization system, has created a new pilot program to determine the eligibility of a Type I environmental labeling certification scheme and to assess the competence of eco-labeling certification bodies.