Rum and sustainability : Is your Rum Bonsucro certified?

Sustainability is a fashionable word but when it comes to acts it is another piece of cake. How can one know that his rum is made with sustainable raw materials when 95% of the world rums are made with molasses sold on a global market? Certification labels are certainly the key to the world of tomorrow and the world of sugarcane has its label : Bonsucro. Miguel Hernandez, head of Latin America, explains to us what Bonsucro is.

Miguel Hernandez - Regional Director for Latin America at Bonsucro.
Miguel Hernández – Regional Director for Latin America at Bonsucro.

Rumporter: Hello Miguel, it is an honour for us to chat with you. But who are you ?

Miguel Hernández: I am the Regional Director for Latin America at Bonsucro, I am based in Argentina and from here I am responsible for overseeing Bonsucro’s activities supported by a Regional Coordinator in Brazil and a Regional Coordinator in Mexico. The three of us are the Latin American team at Bonsucro.

R: Before we deep into rum I would like to hear from you an explanation of what is Bonsucro ?

MH : Bonsucro is a global multi-stakeholder non-profit organisation working specifically on sugarcane.  Bonsucro has more than 500 members and is governed by a Board of Directors and the Secretariat in London. Bonsucro’s members come from a wide range of organizations dealing with sugarcane. Our members are across the value chain for direct or derivative products of sugarcane: from farmers, mills,  traders, civil society and end users. Apart from the staff at the Secretariat in London, we have staff in 3 regions: Latin America, Africa and Asia and some regional coordinators in key origins such as Mexico, Brasil and India.

R: what does Bonsucro promote. What is its goal ?

MH: Bonsucro promotes sustainable sugarcane production, processing and trade, globally. Its mission is to ensure responsible sugarcane production creates value for the people, communities and eco-systems in cane-growing origins. We achieve this through two pillars :

  • A certification system composed by a production standard (that has 6 principles – See below*) whose main scope is the certification and processing of sugarcane applicable at farm and mill level and the Chain of Custody standard whose main scope is to provide assurance that claims of compliance can be tracked along the supply chain.
  • A platform playing a role of convener, so members can work together on impact projects or learn and exchange opportunities.

*The 6 principles of the production standard catering to the 3 pillars of sustainability are : 1. Obey the law, 2. Respect human rights and labour standards, 3. Manage efficiency to improve sustainability, 4. Manage biodiversity and ecosystem, 5. Continuously improve, 6. Adhere to EU directive.

R: How does one become a Bonsucro member and what benefits can one expect, how is control organised ?

MH: You can apply to membership online, on Bonsucro’s website, after filling-in the membership form with some basic information, the applicant has a 30 day period as “candidate member”, during this period we do a due diligence process and wait for comments in case a stakeholder has any allegation against a candidate. If everything is positive and we don’t receive comments, then the applicant is welcome as member.

Bonsucro Thailan,d
Int 2018 Bonsucro held its annual meeting in Thailand, one of the largest cane producer.

The main advantage of Bonsucro’s membership is the access to our worldwide network working on the sustainability of the sugarcane sector. Also, there are many market drivers that can benefit the membership for instance, end user and brands requesting certified products such as sugar, ethanol, molasses and bagasse. The financial sector is using Bonsucro as part of their due diligence to provide loans or project financial support and finally de-risking the sugarcane supply chain by using Bonsucro’s certification system to demonstrate legal and environmental compliance, as well as, business responsibility.

R : Who are the rum companies you are currently working with ?

MH: Our current members working in the rum sector are: Bacardi, Pernod Ricard, Destilaria de Cachaça Maison Leblon Indústria e Comércio Ltda and Nicaragua Sugar Estates Limited (owner of rum Flor de Caña). Bonsucro also is a recognised scheme compliant with the EU Renewable Energy Directive, therefore we also have members working on the bioethanol sector such as Raízen, Shell and Seaboard Energías Renovables y Alimentos S.R.L, among others.

R: When it comes to the producing countries where do we meet most members? If you were a rum producer willing to purchase Bonsucro certified molasses, where would you go?

MH: Approximately 72% of certified mills are in Latin America (93 out of 128 as of March 2020), spread out in 13 countries and with an importance presence in Brazil (72 certified mills). The scope of Bonsucro certification includes sugar, ethanol, bagasse and molasses, to decide in which country to purchase any interested can check the mill name and country with certified molasses, this information is public available on Bonsucro’s website on the section Certified Members.

R: What about the Caribbean?

MH: Bonsucro has only two members in the Caribbean, CASELI a NGO in Haiti and Consorcio Azucarero de Empresas Industriales in Dominican Republic, this member is also a certified mill. This is an interesting region to grow, therefore we have been engaging with potential new members and stakeholders in this region.

Here are Bonsucro’s key numbers  in 2018 – The number of certified mills is now 128 !!

R:  You’ve talked to us about a platform similar to the carbon offset market for Bonsucro supported projects. Can you say more ?

MH: In October 2019 Bonsucro launched its Credit Trading Platform, a revolutionary tool that connects buyers and producers, accelerating transformation of the sugarcane sector through sustainable trade. Its automatic price-matching mechanism allows a global network of businesses to buy and sell Bonsucro Credits, which are proof that a unit of sugarcane, raw sugar, ethanol or molasses has been sustainably produced to Bonsucro’s Production Standard. Credits reward Bonsucro Certified Mills and Farms for their commitment to sustainability, and a portion of fees from Bonsucro Credit sales are invested directly in local impact initiatives for other farms and mills to adopt more sustainable practices. Bonsucro Credits help buyers to achieve their sustainable procurement targets.

R: The sugar market has been in turmoil since the total liberalisation of the exchanges in 2017, how do see you it evolve ?

MH: The sugarcane sector is complex, highly fragmented and the so called “sugar bears” prevails in the market, nevertheless Bonsucro’s certification is evolving in 2020 with 128 mills certified in 18 countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa. This is an important shift compared to 2015, by that time there were only 41 mills certified in 4 countries. The main driver of this growth has been the brands with global sourcing commitments on sugar, ethanol, molasses and bagasse sustainable produced.


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