Social and Environmental Sustainability at Südzucker Division Sugar – Commitments and Certification by External Institutions in 2021
Sustainability is a core topic for us at Südzucker, not only because an increasing number of consumers and customers value it as one of their purchase criteria, but also because we see it as our role as a leading food ingredient provider to contribute to a better future and environment.
The pillars of social and environmental sustainability are particularly important to us. Südzucker Group has firmly anchored these in the corporate strategy and set itself corresponding goals. Collaboration with certification institutions helps us achieve relevant and scientifically based goals that are also standardised and comparable, so that together with other companies a greater impact can be achieved. This also promotes transparency and consistency in our sustainability performance. Finally, it further strengthens our ambition to continuously improve and verify our achievements.
Important certifications that assess social and environmental sustainability and Südzucker’s performance in these areas include the SAI Platform, REDcert², EcoVadis and Sedex, among others.
Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI Platform) and REDcert² – Promoting Sustainable Farming
The Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI Platform) is a global non-profit organisation that assesses and helps companies in the food and beverage sector establish sustainable farming practices to protect the natural environment and produce safe and high-quality raw materials. To encourage the implementation of sustainable agriculture practices, the initiative offers guidance, training, support and the opportunity for all members to connect and share their knowledge and solutions.
For the final assessment and validation of companies’ on-farm sustainability practices, the SAI Platform has developed the standardised Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA). Major themes and requirements of the benchmark questionnaire of the FSA are:
- fostering sustainable soil, waste, nutrient and water management
- crop protection
- biodiversity principles
- air quality and greenhouse gas emissions
- labour conditions
Depending on the implementation of sustainability measures, this standard grants a Bronze, Silver, or Gold level to the beet growing process.
The European certification system REDcert² also uses all FSA criteria to evaluate and certify biomass like sugar beets from the food and feed industry, in addition to its own requirements of the REDcert-EU system. Therefore, it is equivalent to the highest FSA benchmark result Gold.
Südzucker has been an active member of the SAI platform since 2014. We have steadily improved since then and in 2021 we can now announce that 100% of our Südzucker beet farmers in Europe are certified according REDcert² and thus also with the Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) Gold level. We are proud that all of our farmers meet the strict requirements of the FSA and thus contribute to supporting sustainable agriculture and protecting our planet.
EcoVadis – Sustainable and Social Responsibility
Another important, recognised and leading sustainability index is EcoVadis. As an independent international platform, EcoVadis analyses and evaluates the performance of companies in the areas of sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR). A catalogue of questions is used to examine how responsibly companies act in the four areas of environment, ethics, labour and human rights and sustainable procurement. The method is based on international sustainability standards and combines, among others, the requirements of the Global Reporting Initiative, the United Nations Global Compact and ISO 26000 in a comprehensive survey.
Depending on how well a company has integrated the principles of sustainability or CSR into its business and management system and achieved a corresponding number of points, it is awarded medals ranging from bronze to platinum.
Our new EcoVadis scorecard and rating was recently published. Südzucker Group was awarded a silver medal, improving over the bronze medal we received last year. This result places us among the top 25 percent of companies assessed by EcoVadis.
We aim to further improve on each of the different pillars and obtain Gold in 2023. We will carefully conduct a gap-analysis and implement a cross-functional project plan to achieve these specific improvements.
Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (Sedex) – Social Auditing
To verify social and ethical working aspects, Südzucker is also a member of Sedex. Sedex is a global organisation that collaborates with companies to improve their social and environmental performance and the working conditions in their supply chains. In addition to a social auditing methodology, the online platform offers companies tools, services and a network for continuous improvement.
Every three years Südzucker initiates an external audit in line with Sedex’s stringent social auditing methodology SMETA (Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit). The sites of a supplier or company are assessed in terms of health and safety, labour standards, business ethics and the environment.
All Südzucker AG factories of the Division Sugar in Germany and Poland are audited according to SMETA since 2018 and our factories in France and Belgium are in progress.
This audit enables us to demonstrate compliance with the principles of social sustainability, especially respect for and observance of human and employee rights, and makes our sustainability management processes more transparent.
Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) – Acting against Climate Change
In September 2020 Südzucker Group joined the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). CDP is a non-profit organisation that supports and measures the impact of actions taken by companies globally related to fight climate change and deforestation and promote water security.
As a member we provide transparent information on challenges and opportunities for the company arising from climate change. Thus, we aim to build more trust through transparency and respond to the rising environmental concerns of customers, consumers and investors. It is an important step for us to move forward on our path to sustainability.
Meeting the Consumer Demands and Further Commitments
Südzucker has established further initiatives alongside these sustainability requirements. Agricultural research on innovative solutions for crop protection, plant diseases and pests, digitalisation of agriculture or analysis of different beet varieties are examples of key activities for improving our beet cultivation. Beyond these topics, we are also keenly interested in biodiversity, which we are fostering through various initiatives. Apart from planting flower strips in the beet fields together with our farmers, we are also investigating the impact of biodiversity measures and how they can be improved in cooperation with scientific institutes on our research farms. Learn more about our initiatives in agricultural research and biodiversity.
Another clear focus pillar of our sustainability commitments is the provision of organic-certified products. Thus, we strive to offer selected products that are cultivated and sourced beyond the requirements of EU organic certifications and can offer products in Naturland, Bioland or Biosuisse quality (learn which products are available in organic-certified quality here).
Regional sourcing and production are important to us. Our organic sugar beets are sourced from farms that are on average only 150 km away from our factory in Rain am Lech, Bavaria.
These certifications and our additional initiatives show the fundamental principles that Südzucker is committed to. They also reflect our focus on the needs of our customers and their end consumers, who are increasingly looking for regional, fair cultivation and processing of raw materials along the entire supply chain of a company’s food and beverage products. This is why we are collaborating with customers to provide transparency and show our initiative for sustainable action along the entire supply chain all the way to end consumers.
In the future, Südzucker will continue its efforts to maintain and improve its certification status. This also includes committing to additional important certifications like the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and developing action plans for them.
Would you like to learn more about our specific sustainability commitments, goals and KPIs? Stay tuned for more publications or contact us directly:
Geert van Aelst – Head of Sustainability Südzucker Division Sugar