Food manufacturing giant Unilever will work with international non-profit Solidaridad to drive the sustainable development of the sugar cane industry in Central America.
The initiative forms part of the firm's ongoing work to source 100% of its raw materials from sustainable sources by 2020, within its much wider ambition to double the size of its business, whilst reducing its overall environmental footprint.
The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding will see Unilever and Solidaridad work together on sustainable sugar cane in Central America, with an initial focus on Mexico.
“This is an important collaboration for us on our journey towards sourcing 100% of sugar sustainably by 2020," said Marc Engel, chief procurement officer at Unilever. "We are committed to working with partners and fully support the work that bodies such as Solidaridad and Bonsucro are doing.”
Speaking at the launch of a new Solidaridad campaign titled 'How to change the world with sugarcane', Dirk Jan de With, VP procurement ingredients & sustainability at Unilever said that with two billion consumers using Unilever products every day, the firm has two billion daily opportunities to interact with consumers.
"That's a great opportunity if you want to bring change," said de With - who told FoodNavigator that the company is making 'great progress' in sourcing sustainable ingredients, but added that wider industry involvement will be needed in the long term.
“Company engagement like this is crucial for the drive towards a thriving sugarcane sector, with positive impacts on society and the environment," said Sven Sielhorst, programme manager sugarcane at Solidaridad."I am very excited that Unilever is taking initiative."
"Only when others follow can we really make [the] sugarcane industry contribute to positive change in the world," said Sielhorst.
The aims are:
- To improve productivity of 3,600 farm and mill labourers in compliance with International Labour Organisation decent labour standards.
- To improve social, environmental and commercial farm performance for 1,900 farmers through farmer support with 8,000 hectares under good agricultural management.
- To achieve one mill and 5,000 hectares in compliance with Bonsucro Production Standard and to create cross-industry learnings around sustainability and certification.
- To share lessons learned and experiences with other actors in the Mexican and Central American sugarcane industry.