Sugar is an ingredient used in many of our food and beverages. It is sourced from countries around the world, in both cane and sugar beet forms.

How we source sugar

The majority of our sugar procurement comes from the USA (predominantly from sugar beet) and from Brazil, Mexico and India (from sugarcane), although we also source from many other countries, including Australia, Thailand and Colombia. Our aim is to ensure that the sugar is sourced from mills where the operations, as well as the farms and plantations that supply them, comply with local laws and regulations and our Responsible Sourcing Guideline. This includes:

  • No use of forced or child labour;
  • Workers’ pay and conditions that meet at least legal or mandatory industry standards;
  • Respecting freedom of association and collective bargaining, unless prevented by law;
  • The provision of safe and healthy workplaces; and
  • Mitigating the impacts on water by implementing water management plans, and additional measures in water-stressed areas.

Sugar supply chain challenges and solutions

Assessments have identified a range of challenges in the countries from which we source sugar. Together with suppliers and implementing partners such as Proforest, we are actively working to address them. The most widespread and serious challenges identified involve safe and healthy living and working conditions for sugarcane labourers, while environmental issues such as water management are also a concern.

Labour conditions

Harvest periods in some countries see large numbers of temporary migrant workers living and working in sugarcane-growing areas. The nature of this labour force accounts for many social risks within the supply chain. These can include: limited access to sanitation and potable water; overcrowding and a lack of personal space and privacy; children not in education and potentially exposed to hazardous conditions; and limited access to safe working practices, such as the appropriate use, storage and disposal of chemicals.

Deforestation and biodiversity loss

Our ‘no deforestation’ commitment (pdf, 205Kb), and support for the Consumer Goods Forum’s ambition for zero net deforestation by 2020, are also relevant in the sugar supply chain. We are developing and sharing tools to enable smallholder farmers to avoid deforestation and the loss of natural vegetation, and finding ways to help them manage water consumption. The remediation activities are implemented in conjunction with a network of local delivery partners in specific countries, who can bring additional local knowledge to the process.

How we assess suppliers

We work with Proforest to assess our suppliers and map our sugar supply chain. So far, we have mapped the supply chains back to the sugar mills and their supply bases across a wide number of countries including Brazil, Mexico, India, Australia, Thailand and Central America to name but a few. The assessment process includes exploratory and full site visits, analysis of traceability data and supplier workshops. Findings inform the development of strategies for mills to improve practices, implement changes and roll out appropriate training across their supply bases. Over 50 assessments have been carried out in sugarcane and sugar beet growing origins. These include site visits, checking of traceability and employment data, and supplier workshops.

Addressing child labour in the sugar supply chain

Working with Proforest, we have been supporting mills to address child labour where it has been identified as an issue. It is important that mills develop their own programmes that they can implement in their specific supply base. Proforest provides the technical support to assess the robustness of the plans and then verify in the field whether or not they are being implemented effectively.

Our annual objectives

Sugar supply chain traceability results

Sugar supply chain traceability chart. Percentage of volume traceable: 59.6% (2016 target: 70%). Percentage of volume Responsibly Sourced: 46.3% (2016 target: 60%)
  • Percentage of volume traceable 59.6% (2016 target: 70%)
    Percentage of volume Responsibly Sourced 46.3% (2016 target: 60%)

Our progress

During 2016, Proforest carried out more than 50 Responsible Sourcing Guideline assessments in Brazil, Argentina, Peru, La Réunion, the Philippines, Mauritius, United States of America and Mozambique, and monitoring visits in other countries previously assessed. As a result of these and earlier assessments, we have instigated practical programmes, including technical support and education, to help millers and farmers to implement improved practices to address issues such as poor working conditions, particularly where there is migrant labour involved in manual harvest.

We also extended our support for a capacity-building training programme run by our partner, ABC Mexico. This covers issues such as eradication of child labour, conservation of forests, identification and protection of high conservation value areas, safe working conditions, safe handling of agrochemicals, and safe and hygienic housing. The content of the training programme is directly relatable to the findings of the Responsible Sourcing Guideline assessment.

In the Philippines, a key sourcing region, a new approach is being taken to address the systemic risks and smallholder needs across a number of overlapping mill supply bases. This collaborative approach has seen the development of an action plan to address issues, such as child labour and poor working conditions, and smallholder needs such as access to support to improve yields. Stakeholders, including millers, farmers and associations have been part of this process.

Looking ahead

2017 will be a year for continued effort to assess supply bases to understand compliance with the Nestlé Responsible Sourcing Guideline but also more focus on supporting continuous improvement through further training, workshops and practical action.

In the Philippines, the action plan developed in 2016 will be implemented. This will require the coordination and commitment of a wide range of stakeholders, but the desired outcome has the potential to have a positive impact across the smallholder supply base. Collaboration between different stakeholders will be the key to implementing this wide-scale programme and having a long-term impact.

Other plans for 2017 include widening the scope of the programme to look at more supply bases on the African continent, which is likely to present different challenges to those seen in other places in the world.

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