“In the future all sugarcane ethanol will be Bonsucro certified”

The first Bonsucro Certified product entered the port of Rotterdam last week. It is the first shipment of a certified sugarcane product in Europe that will end up with the consumer. Argos Energies will use the ethanol for their bio fuels

Bonsucro’s Production Standard assesses the biodiversity, ecosystem and human rights impacts of sugarcane production and demands legal compliance and continuous improvement throughout the production process. This is assessed against key indicators, such as energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption. Sugarcane mills are required to be members of Bonsucro and certificates are valid for three years, with annual audits. Workers active in Bonsucro areas earn a decent living and can work their way out of poverty.

Sven Sielhorst is international programme manager Sugarcane and biofuels at Solidaridad.
“This is the first Bonsucro certified ethanol into Europe that can be traced all the way, from the
field to the pump. The ethanol is made from Brazilian sugarcane and it will be blended into gasoline.”

Why is this important?
The arrival of this product sets the standard for bringing sugarcane ethanol into Europe. We believe that in the future, all sugarcane ethanol will be Bonsucro certified. This means that the sugarcane is verified as being produced and milled according to high social and environmental standards.

What does this step mean for the sugarcane sector?
Driving on sugarcane ethanol is a great way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and it brings development to rural areas around the world. Sugarcane can really provide a pathway to a more sustainable future. Still, there is also cause for concern around sugarcane – as a lot of it is produced in ways that harm the environment or human rights. Producers and buyers of ethanol, like Argos, can now demonstrate through Bonsucro certification that those concerns do not apply to them. We hope that a growing group of companies choose Bonsucro to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability.

Is this a milestone? 
It may look like a piece of cake to import a few containers of Bonsucro certified ethanol.  And it will be a piece of cake in the future. But being the first is always challenging, because you need to lead the way. Argos Oil and Solidaridad started four years ago with the vision to import Bonsucro certified ethanol – and to contribute to driving sustainability in Brazilian sugarcane production.  We set up a program to make this a reality, with financial support of Agency NL. We supported Bonsucro in its development, we helped mills understand Bonsucro certification and we helped them to get certified, we developed methodologies for farmers to improve their production and show compliance with the Bonsucro standard, and Argos Oil became the first European company to certify its chain of custody. This means they are the first who can trace a product throughout the entire supply chain. The arrival of this first batch of Bonsucro ethanol may seem futile – but the efforts behind it have been enormous. That is what makes it special.

What effect should this have?
This shipment shows that Bonsucro ethanol can now flow into Europe. It is a reality, and I am confident that other oil companies will embrace it. Bonsucro has some of the largest oil companies in the world in its membership, so there is no reason why they shouldn’t. Farmers and millers have done their part. It is time for the market to acknowledge this and to start buying Bonsucro certified ethanol.

What is the role Argos played in this?
I am very proud of our partner, Argos Oil. They have always believed in the concept of Bonsucro certification and they have been working consistently to make it happen. In the end, market parties have the power to shift away from anonymous and unsustainable materials, and engage with their supply chain to demonstrate their commitment to a more sustainable future. Argos has taken a leadership position by showing the European marketplace that this is the way. The government, through Agency NL, and Solidaridad have supported them in this effort – but in the end neither of us buys ethanol.  Argos has been the essential partner for making this happen.