Bonsucro signs MoU with Indian Sugar Mills Association to Accelerate Sustainability

Today, 20th September 2023, our CEO, Danielle Morley and Mr Aditya Jhunjhunwala, President of the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), that establishes a partnership to share knowledge and develop joint initiatives to accelerate sustainability practices in the Indian sugar industry. The MoU represents a milestone for our work in India, and an exciting opportunity to collaborate closely with ISMA on a sustainable roadmap.

As the climate crisis is deepening, the sustainability challenges we’re facing require systemic change. India is one of the world’s top sugarcane producers and is a priority country for Bonsucro. The country is acutely feeling the impact of climate change – the World Resources Institute puts India as the 13th most water stressed country in the world. India is also vulnerable to extreme heat waves which can damage crops, reduce yields and therefore income. There are also severe health risks of heat stress for farmers and cane cutters working in high temperatures.

Our footprint in India has been steadily growing over the years. We now have 35 members in the country, nine of which are Bonsucro certified mills. Our membership is predominantly mills and farmers, but also covers traders and civil society organisations. In addition, we have close relationships with representatives of buyer members in India such as PepsiCo, Bacardi and Unilever.

A farmer on a Bonsucro certified sugarcane plantation operated by DCM Shriram, India, 2021

ISMA is the body representing private sugar mills in India, working towards the development and growth of the sugar industry. By collaborating, ISMA and Bonsucro can create a more sustainable sugarcane sector in the country.

The Memorandum of Understanding includes knowledge sharing, capacity building, sustainability assessments, policy engagement, and advocacy.

Collective action and knowledge sharing are central to Bonsucro’s role as a platform for change. We have agreed to share best practices and research findings in relation to sustainable sugarcane and bioenergy production. This will include our existing tools as well as producing new resources created for the local context, relating to efficient agricultural practices, water conservation, waste management, and energy optimisation techniques.

To drive sustainability across the sector, we believe that access to training and accurate, relevant resources are essential. By collaborating with ISMA, we plan to organise joint workshops and seminars to increase the capacity of staff working in sugar mills as well as farmers and broader stakeholders. These initiatives will focus on improving the environmental impact of sugarcane and strengthening the social approaches to sugarcane cultivation and processing as well as bioenergy production.

Together with ISMA, we will develop and implement sustainability assessment frameworks for the Indian sugar industry. This will involve conducting regular evaluations to measure the environmental, social, and economic performance of sugar mills, benchmarking against industry standards, and providing recommendations for improvement.

Commenting on the MoU, Mr Jhunjhunwala said:

“Today we are starting a partnership for the planet, a partnership for our industry and for the recognition it deserves. Sugar and sustainability go hand in hand, no other crop has more potential to be a force of good for the planet as sugarcane whether it is through bio-power, bio-ethanol or other forms of bioenergy.

With this partnership with Bonsucro we hope that these don’t just remain words but also translate into certifiable, verifiable reality, so that both farmers and the industry can benefit from their contributions to the planet.”

Danielle Morley, Bonsucro CEO, said:

“India is rapidly changing and as the sugarcane sector looks to the future, knowledge-based collaborations like this are essential. By working more closely with ISMA, Bonsucro can support the Indian sugar and bioenergy sector to achieve net zero targets and contribute to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.”

The MoU was signed at a lunch event in New Delhi on 20 September, attended by ISMA, Bonsucro members, and other stakeholders. The event took place ahead of the Sugar and Bioenergy Conference on 21-22 September. Danielle will speak at the conference about how sustainable sugarcane can help create a net zero future.

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