A sustainability journey for our sugar cane

Sugar has many uses, but it is a by-product of the refining process – a thick and treacly juice called molasses – that is behind the rum that goes into Kahlúa. The molasses we use are sourced by a single sugar mill, Ingenio La Gloria in Veracruz, Mexico, just a short distance from the farming communities in our Coffee for Good project.

Billy King
Billy King

La Gloria has been engaged with the sustainability agenda in the Mexican sugar sector for several years and in early 2023, we embarked on a three-year project with the Veracruz-based sugar mill to source 100 per cent of cane spirit from responsible and sustainable sources. 

The programme, developed in partnership with Proforest, the global non-profit group, will offer responsible recruitment conditions and housing conditions; increase the potential of carbon capture through agriculture; and create positive impacts in migrant communities.

There are two key elements of the project, which focus on environmental and social impacts rather than economic ones. The first revolves around regenerative agriculture, improving the health of soils by and guarding against the impact of climate change. We are aiming to improve the soil health in La Gloria’s supply chain through the increase of at least 15 per cent carbon capture in the soil, and the reduction of at least 20 per cent of the chemical fertilisation dose by the end of the 2025 harvest season. 

“This is about reduced use of fertilisers, incorporating organic matter, carbon capture and regenerative agriculture,” says Billy King.

Second, it focuses on workers’ labour conditions, health and safety and improving workers’ lives. This includes reducing accident rates during the harvest by 20 per cent by 2024 and implementing KPIs for cases of dehydration and rest times. 

The young men employed during the sugarcane harvest period face many hazards and conditions, which put at risk their health, safety and wellbeing. “Our project will support La Gloria in the improvement of its health and safety management system, minimising accidents, improving hydration, supplying key personal protective equipment and ensuring access to shaded areas – and adequate rest periods during the working day,” adds Billy.

The collaboration for sustainable sugar cane from La Gloria is just the start of a journey. It marks the beginning of working with and nurturing the trust, of a single supplier. “We have lots of work to do but it is an important first step,” says Billy. “The project was months in the making. We’ll start with a focus on reforestation having already provided protective equipment for this year’s harvest.”