Bonsucro, the leading certification body in sugarcane production and our partner in the Adelante Initiative has recently announced their new 5-year strategic plan. We had the opportunity to sit down with Miguel Hernandez, Bonsucro’s Regional Director for Latin America, to ask him about this new direction, and what these new priorities mean for the health and wellbeing of workers throughout the sugarcane industry.

Bonsucro has recently announced a new ambitious 5-year strategic plan. Why was it important to announce these new priorities? 

It’s important to be transparent about our plans and vision, not only with our members, but also with the whole sugarcane sector. We play a convening role in the sugarcane sector because we believe that a sustainable future requires collaboration and clear communication, which is only possible if everyone is on the same page about the direction we’re going in.

How will this strategy strengthen Bonsucro’s commitments to ensuring sustainability and human rights in the sugarcane industry?

Much of the world’s sugarcane is grown in countries where working conditions are poor, and workers are marginalised or vulnerable. In addition, there’s a growing spotlight on social and labour aspects in global supply chains, so it was important to strengthen Bonsucro’s commitments to human rights. We want to drive Decent Work, ethical recruitment and safer working conditions for smallholder farmers, farm workers and mill workers, which includes zero tolerance for forced labour, discrimination, and child labour. We are also going to promote fairer wages for the most vulnerable people and ensure safe recruitment for migrant workers.

LIN, in partnership with Bonsucro via the Adelante Initiative, has been concerned with addressing the epidemic of heat-related kidney disease (CKDnT) among sugarcane laborers, resulting from strenuous heavy labor in the hot sun without adequate rest, water and shade. In what ways will the new 5-year strategy help to address this epidemic?

The new strategy draws attention to issues of heat stress in the human and labour rights section. The Bonsucro Production Standard already requires that adequate water must be provided for workers on certified farms. The Production Standard is currently undergoing revision and new indicators stipulate that rest and shade must also be considered. In addition, localised environments (such as heat and humidity) will need to be considered when creating a health and safety risk assessment. Bonsucro can also provide producers with recommended rest and work schedules. 

 Through the Adelante Initiative, we will continue to promote the water, rest, shade protocol among our whole membership, not just on certified farms. We will share information with both members and the wider sector on the risks of heat stress and offer more training on how to implement these protocols, one example is our recent collaboration for online training with Vinmonopolet

Finally, we are open to working with partners to deliver projects to address sustainability challenges in sugarcane origins across the world.

Thank you to Miguel and Bonsucro for their time. We look forward to continuing to work alongside Bonsucro to ensure that the health and wellbeing of workers is prioritized throughout the sugarcane sector. We are encouraged that Decent Work and labor rights play a central role in these new strategic priorities, and are eager to continue sharing our expertise across Bonsucro’s membership to ensure that members support adequate occupational protections from the negative health impacts of heat throughout their supply chains.