Our responsible approach to the sustainability challenges of biofuels can be seen through our work with Raízen in Brazil. Raízen’s annual production capacity is enough to meet around 9% of Brazil’s current ethanol demand. By 2030, biofuels are expected to make up over 30% of Brazil’s transport fuel mix.
The process Raízen uses to convert sugar cane into ethanol is highly efficient in turning biomass into fuel. Brazilian sugar cane yields 7,000 litres of ethanol per hectare of cane, compared to 3,800 litres per hectare of corn in the USA and 2,500 litres per hectare of wheat in Europe.
Raízen is continuously working to make its production processes more efficient and sustainable. It recycles by-products from cane crushing and ethanol distillation for use as natural fertilisers. It also uses waste sugar-cane fibres as fuel to generate electricity for the mills and delivers a surplus to the national power grid. Raízen works to continually improve crop yields so that more cane can be produced from the same area of land.
Sugar cane needs little artificial irrigation in Brazil because of high annual rainfall. Around 90% of the water used to convert sugar cane into ethanol in Raízen’s 24 mills is recycled. In advance of requirements of São Paulo state, where most of the company’s mills are located, Raízen is phasing out most of its manual harvesting. By the end of 2012, 90% of Raízen’s harvesting was mechanised. To help lessen the impact on local cane cutters, Raízen is helping them acquire new roles, skills and trades. These include jobs to operate and maintain the sowing and harvesting machines, and training to become electricians or mechanics.
Bonsucro has developed the world’s first certification standard for the sustainable production of biofuels from sugar cane. Bonsucro separately certifies the mills where the sugar cane is processed, including the supply chain, and the ethanol produced. It requires companies to fulfil criteria such as legal compliance, active management of biodiversity and ecosystems, compliance with human rights, sustainable production and processing, and continuous improvement.
In 2011, Raízen was the first company to achieve certification of a mill from Bonsucro. By the end of 2012, seven of Raízen’s mills had been certified. As a result, 23% of Raízen’s ethanol is now produced in line with the Bonsucro standard. To achieve certification, a mill has to comply with a large number of regulations from a range of government agencies and establish an awareness of Bonsucro requirements throughout its operation.
Raízen supports the work of the Brazilian government to implement effective land-use policies and to address concerns over sugar-cane production displacing other crops to areas with rich biodiversity. Raízen is also working with the International Union for Conservation of Nature to assess how achieving Bonsucro certification helps to protect local biodiversity. Land used to grow sugar cane for Raízen lies hundreds of kilometres from the Amazon rainforest.
Raízen also supports government efforts to protect the land rights of indigenous peoples in Brazil. Following extensive consultations to understand the complexities of a conflict over land involving one of its suppliers and the Guaraní indigenous people, Raízen signed an agreement in 2012 with FUNAI, the National Indian Foundation, confirming it would not buy sugar cane grown on the land in question. Raízen has also pledged to invest in social programmes that support and protect the welfare of communities. This approach will involve regular meetings to understand and address community concerns. It could also include minimising the impact of sugar plantations on communities by, for example, restoring vegetation and areas communities want to conserve.