In Europe, the sugar required for our products is mainly obtained from sugar beet. Therefore, in order to achieve our target to make sustainable chocolate the norm, we also need to ensure the sugar beet we source from is 100% sustainable. But what defines sugar beet as sustainable? In order to answer this question, Barry Callebaut, worked with the SAI Platform, a global initiative aimed at promoting the development of sustainable agriculture, of which we are a member. It is an industry driven group, that works in a precompetitive manner with more than 100 of the world's leading food and beverage companies.
Setting the Standard for Sustainable Sugar Beet
A group of SAI Platform member companies sourcing and producing sugar set up the European Sugar Beet Project in 2014. This project applied the SAI Platform Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA), which can be applied across a wide variety of crops, to establish the criteria for sustainable European sugar production. The FSA includes many environmental and social criteria that are relevant for sugar beet production, such as soil and nutrient management, crop protection practices and agri-chemical use, water management and emissions. It also includes requirements around labor conditions, health & safety and community engagement, as well as farm performance. When the project was finalized in 2017, the final result was a clear set of criteria which set the standard for sustainable sugar beet production which had been rolled out and implemented by a large number of sugar beet producers in Europe.
Extending the Program into Russia
The next step is to roll this program out in other major sugar beet producing countries, starting with Russia. Barry Callebaut hosted a workshop in Moscow in September to bring together other sugar beet buyers in Russia such as Unilever, PepsiCo, Mars and others along with major suppliers. During the workshop, the group kicked off a project that aims to replicate the success of the European Sugar Beet project by supporting Russian suppliers in implementing SAI Platform’s FSA criteria and tools. It will run over 18 months and includes hands-on implementation support in collaboration with a local agronomist.
The group members will work closely with farmers and help them to verify the sustainability of their farming. Project members plan to meet to review current best practices, to discuss industry challenges and to brainstorm ways to improve sustainability in the sugar beet supply chain.