The Brazilian sugarcane sector is engaged in a wide variety of initiatives designed to promote continuous improvement in the production process, as well as strengthening its commitment to sustainability. Further information on main initiatives available below.
The Green Protocol was a voluntary agreement signed in 2007 by UNICA’s associated mills, the sugarcane producers, represented by ORPLANA, and the government of state of São Paulo, Brazil’s top sugarcane producing state. It was a commitment to anticipate the end of the burning, a sugarcane pre-harvesting method used in the past, and to adopt additional conservation measures.
The first “Green Protocol” was so well succeed that in 2017 the sector, producers and government have launched the “Green Protocol Plus”, a continuation of the commitment, with new goals. Among the main results, more than 35 million seedlings planted, 200 thousand hectares of riparian areas recovered and protected, 8,235 springs protected and 9.3 million tons of CO2 averted in the atmosphere.
In January 2020 the sugarcane sector, represented by UNICA, became an official member of the United Nations Global Compact Network Brazil. Conversations had already begun in 2019 when both organizations started discussing the agenda, working to increase the sugarcane sector’s contributions to the fight against climate change, with ethanol and bioenergy on the front line. In 2019 UNICA and UN Global Compact Network Brazil also participated in the same panel at COP25, the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Madrid. Promoting the SDGs is a fundamental part of the joint action strategy.
Bonsucro is a global multi-stakeholder non-profit organization that promotes sustainable sugarcane production, processing and trade around the world. Bonsucro has 259 members in more than 50 countries and encompasses the entire sugarcane supply chain, including farmers, millers, traders, buyers and support organizations. 27% of the world’s land under sugarcane production is currently part of Bonsucro, and 87 million tons of sugarcane is Bonsucro Certified. In total, 133 mills are certified, of which 74 are in Brazil. UNICA has been cooperating with Bonsucro since 2008.
Sugarcane producers are increasingly monitoring bee populations and are using their permanent preservation areas to enhance habitats for them to thrive. Sharing knowledge with local beekeepers is a key part of this initiative, leading to capacity building on both sides.
The use of biodiversity corridors was implemented in Brazil a near decade ago with sugarcane producers ensuring their existence and maintenance. These corridors help to protect the habitat of many species, including large mammals such as the jaguar, that in turn help keeping rodent populations in check.
Moreover, an increasing number of producers are successfully applying biological control of plagues and thereby minimizing the use of pesticides. This is the case of the small wasp (cotesia flavipes), that is used to control the sugarcane broca (Diatraea saccharalis), a major plague for the sector.
Brazilian sugarcane producers have developed innovative organic fertilizers, which are a by-product of sugarcane processing, known as vinasse. This is used following current regulations and it is in line with our commitments to promote biodiversity, improve soil health and reduce reliance on chemical fertilizers.