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What if beet growing, consumption & sustainability went hand in hand?

Sustainably grown beets, fostering biodiversity, CO₂ eq emissions reduction and promoting conscious consumption: through these 4 impact areas and more, the Südzucker Sugar Division works towards a sustainable future – together with our farmers and customers.

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Sustainability

As a leading food ingredient manufacturer, we are committed to contributing to a healthy, sustainable, and enjoyable future.

Thanks to our agricultural roots, we are closely connected to our farmers and the origin of our beets. We want to create a transparent connection between farming and customers within the farm-to-fork process.

Sustainability is gaining importance in every aspect of life. Therefore, we consider it our responsibility to make it part of our DNA and drive it forward. Social and environmental sustainability form the pillars we align our activities with.
 

Sustainability in the Südzucker Group

The Südzucker Group has firmly anchored social and environmental sustainability in our Group Strategy 2026 Plus. Thanks to our agricultural roots, we are closely connected to our farmers and the origin of our beets. We see ourselves as the central link between farmers and customers in the farm-to-fork process.

The Südzucker Group has therefore identified the eight impact areas at the right that convey our commitment to sustainability.

Sustainability at the Südzucker Sugar Division

As an integrated part of the Südzucker Group, the Sugar Division has defined four impact areas that derive from the Group´s impact areas and has integrated them into our business. The Sugar Division adds Fostering Biodiversity as a ninth impact area and has framed our mission accordingly:

  • Build a transparent connection between beet farming and customers, consumers, and employees
  • Reduce our environmental footprint by taking care of local natural resources
  • Ensure value creation for our stakeholders

To contribute to our mission, those four impact areas are reflected in the chronological process from farm to fork.

Geert van Aelst – Head of Sustainability Südzucker Sugar Division

“Sustainability is a central aspect of the Sugar Division´s DNA. As a leading supplier of the food industry, we are committed to contributing to a healthy, sustainable, and thriving future.”

When it comes to the environmental dimension, we focus primarily on sustainable sourcing, fostering biodiversity, CO₂ equivalent emissions reduction, and responsible use of water.

A major emphasis of sustainable sourcing concerns farming in general and local beet growing, since customers and consumers now want to better understand sustainable agriculture. We aim to connect the customers´ and the farmers´ needs when adapting to a more vulnerable climate.

Reducing CO₂eq emissions across the value chain and taking care of the local environment is another major focus area within the environmental pillar.

Our beet farmers have been growing crops in a sustainable fashion for decades. Nevertheless, they currently face numerous challenges, including fewer plant protection options, greater climate impacts on fields, and rising production costs.

Südzucker therefore supports our farmers with

  • 200 agronomists that advise them on sustainable farming
  • Our bisz advisory platform with dedicated tools such as a cultivation planner
  • Our beet2go app for accessing analytical results from our beet laboratory

Our second strategic priority encompasses the social dimension and concerns our internal stakeholders: Our employees are the foundation of a robust company, so we aim to reinforce workplace safety, promote diversity, and support their well-being. For our farmers, we strive to provide greater recognition and fair compensation, giving them a solid foundation to meet the growing demand for sustainable practices.
 
 
 

Sustainable Farming

KPI: % of spending for sustainable sourced raw material acc. to FSA.
Target: 100% sustainably sourced beet (REDCert2 Gold equivalent level)
 

For decades, the Sugar Division has been growing beets sustainably: Sourcing our beets locally and promoting local farming has led to more transparency throughout the value chain and was our first step towards a more sustainable future.

Südzucker is an active member of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform. SAI is a global non-profit organization 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.

Südzucker and its sugar beet growers again demonstrated adherence to the SAI sustainability criteria in 2022 by receiving the REDCert2 certificate. Every year, more than 200 external audits are carried out at the growers´ premises as part of the certification process.

Sustainable Agriculture and Farming Practices Applied in order to foster sustainable growth

On our pilot farms in Belgium, France and Germany, we train our farmers on sustainable agriculture and farming practices. Practices that make a difference are …

<b>Implementation of cover crops</b> Bild
Implementation of cover crops

Cover crops are beneficial in several ways:

  • They protect the soil from drying out, extreme heat, and erosion
  • Boost soil health and life on cultivated land
  • Promote humus content, increasing the organic matter in the soil

Cover crops thereby promote plant growth and increase resilience.

<b>Reduced tillage</b> Bild
Reduced tillage

Tillage intensity depends on the requirements of crops and can vary in crop rotations. Reduced tillage intensity requires effective herbicides or alternatives.

The goal is to:

  • Prepare the soil for optimum plant development and root growth
  • Promote soil fermentation and active soil life
  • Boost humus content and organic matter
  • Prevent erosion and leaching

Reduced tillage intensity and increased organic matter improve the soil´s load-bearing capacity and, thus, the trafficability of the land. It also reduces soil water evaporation and supports soil cover.

<b>Direct seeding</b> Bild
Direct seeding

The aim of direct seeding is to:

  • Supply the soil with sufficient plant nutrients
  • Optimize fertilizer application (mineral/organic)

Always in line with the site’s supply status and the respective crop’s requirements to prevent unnecessary nutrient surpluses and leaching.

Fostering Biodiversity

KPI: Total size of flower strips across Südzucker beet growing countries.
Base year (2018): Approx 60 ha
Results (2022): Approx 220 ha
Target (2023): Approx 250 ha
 
At Südzucker´s Sugar Division we are committed to promoting biodiversity in partnership with our local beet farmers. This is why fostering biodiversity is our second key impact area. In 2022, we worked with farmers to conserve biodiversity in local ecosystems and pledged to use water more responsibly.

When it comes to fostering regional biodiversity, flower strips have a huge impact. That is why it has been our goal to increase the total number and area of flower strips in all Südzucker growing countries. In order to facilitate this, the Südzucker Sugar Division has created the Südzucker Biodiversity Alliance – an alliance between our farmers, Südzucker, and interested industry customers to jointly promote biodiversity. Together with IFAB, we have developed a biodiversity measurement catalogue, which farmers can choose from to monitor the progress. Participating farmers are renumerated for their efforts on top of the regular beet price.

We are happy to share that we have overachieved our goal of establishing a total of 220 ha by 2022, and the process is still ongoing.

We have established long-term collaborations for understanding the impact of near- and in-field biodiversity. Find out more about our flower strip research here.

To achieve more responsible water use, we aim to focus on better water use in clearing ponds next to our production sites. We are also engaged in establishing several collaborations to improve bird habitats and to drive more awareness of this issue.

We take several steps to ensure we reach our goals, increase awareness, better understand flower strips and their impact, and host press events on the fields.

Emission cuts

KPI: Reduction of Scope 1 & 2 CO₂ eq emissions.
Base year (2018): Scope 1 & 2: 1.9M T CO₂ eq, Scope 3: 2.3M T CO₂ eq
Performance (2022): Scope 1 & 2: – 24%
Target (2023): Scope 1 & 2: -50.4% and scope 3: -30%

 
The third impact area we focus on is the reduction of emissions.

We seek to reduce Scopes 1 & 2 CO₂ equivalent emissions by 50% by 2030. That means we’re in the process of phasing out coal and switching to natural gas or biogas, working on energy efficiency, and obtaining our electrical energy in Scope 2 from renewable sources. So far, we have reached a reduction in scope 1 & 2 of 24% versus the base year.

We are working towards climate neutrality by 2050 – cutting energy use and emissions by changing our energy mix, developing renewable energy sources, and practicing climate-friendly farming.

We are proud that our goals are validated by SBTi to be in line with the Paris Agreement.

In February 2022, Südzucker Group joined the Science Based Target initiative (SBTi). The independent initiative has set an internationally recognized standard for greenhouse gas reduction that contributes to achieving the global goals of the Paris Agreement.

Minimizing our CO₂ –footprint is one essential goal we are striving to achieve as a Group. The validation of our goals confirms these as scientifically well-founded. The reduction targets for our Scope 1 &2 emissions were confirmed in February 2023 as in line with the level of decarbonization required to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

 

 

Conscious Consumption

From sugar beets, we develop and produce a wide range of nutritional, energy and non-food solutions, empowering customers to choose the optimal offering to provide consumers with products for more mindful consumption.

To promote conscious consumption, we produce beet sugar for use as a preservation agent for fruit.

We complete our product range to include products such as sugar-reduced fondant to support conscious consumption.

At Südzucker, we produce organic sugar of the highest quality to meet our customers’ needs and the highest standards set by their industry, from baked goods and sugar confectionary to beverages and non-food products. Our organic sugar is produced from organically grown and locally sourced sugar beet crops. We have been working with local farmers in Germany for almost 20 years to produce bio-based sweetening solutions.

Functioning as a preserving agent is only one of the many roles the sugar beet plays. Discover why the sugar beet is a true superhero.

Sustainability Indexes

We partner with accredited sustainability indexes to scale our commitment and are proud to announce that our beet sugar is sourced sustainably according to REDCert2 in all four major growing countries. For ecovadis, we have achieved the silver level and aim to improve our CDP score further. Our goals have been validated by SBTi.

To us in the Sugar Division, as part of the integrated Südzucker Group, a strong focus on sustainability is vital. We are aware of the responsibility that comes with our business, and we consider ourselves part of the solution. For example, some beet-growing areas within the EU are located in water-stress areas. We are aware of our responsibility and take measures to manage our water consumption responsibly when processing sugar beets. The sugar beet itself plays an essential role in this: All the water required for cleaning and transporting the beets comes from the beet itself. The sugar beet consists of 75% water, which results in approximately one million m3 per year in each factory. The sugar beet is indeed a true hero – discover more about its superpowers.

Open communication is vital to us when sharing our goals and achievements. We know that becoming more sustainable is a process, and we openly share our current status.

 

 

Latest Download Material

Südzucker´s Soil Health Service Image
Südzucker´s Soil Health Service
Download our paper to find out how to it is possible to reduce fertilizer and maintain the yield at the same time. ...
Sustainable Farming in Challenging Times Image
Sustainable Farming in Challenging Times
Paper: Download our paper to learn what challenges our farmers are facing today and what we do to support them in order to work towards a more sustainable futur ...

Get in Touch

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 Sugar Division

Email: Geert.VanAelst@suedzuckergroup.com

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