Sugarcane | WWF

Responsible Sugarcane

Sugarcane production and trade have altered the course of human history, from the migration of peoples to changing political systems. But more recently, the industry has also left a non-negligible footprint on the natural environment. This is why WWF works with stakeholders in the sugarcane industry to make sure that it is environmentally viable.

Why sugar needs to become more sustainable

23.8 million ha  Area covered by sugarcane plantations in 2010, almost the size of the UK (find out more)

Sugarcane is a water-intensive crop that remains in the soil all year long. As one of the world’s thirstiest crops, sugarcane has a significant impact on many environmentally sensitive regions, like the Mekong Delta and the Atlantic Forest. Historic planting of sugarcane around the world has led to significant degradation of biodiversity.

A vast global market for sugarcane derivatives keeps the industry booming. Sugar is prevalent in the modern diet and increasingly a source of biofuels and bioplastics.

► Read more about why sugarcane needs to become environmentally sustainable

Our approach

The most effective way to reduce the sugarcane industry’s impact on the environment is to transform the way sugar is grown and processed. For example, strengthening soil helps to sustain long-term production while reducing the use of damaging pesticides.

To maximize our impact, WWF works with the sugarcane industry—from small farmers to big buyers like Coca-Cola and Unilever—to develop standards for producing this commodity sustainably through Bonsucro.

This platform is a collaboration of sugar retailers, investors, traders, producers and NGOs who are committed to sustainable sugar production.

WWF Targets

2020: 25% of global sugarcane production will be Bonsucro certified.


3.9% of global sugarcane production is Bonsucro certified (August 2016).
► Read more about how WWF works with the sugar industry

Better Production for a Living Planet

Sugarcane case study
More case studies

Find out about other commodities we work on

CASE STUDY: Sugarcane and the Great Barrier Reef - what’s the connection?

Think of threats to the Great Barrier Reef and sugarcane probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Yet runoff from sugarcane and other farms near the coast can have a severe environmental impact.

Australia, which has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, is obliged to protect the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Site from global warming. © WWF

Project Catalyst—a partnership between WWF, private firms, farmers and the local government among others—supports farmers to adopt new cutting-edge practices, from new cultivation strategies to equipment modifications.

77.5 billion litres
"Amount of water runoff from the sugarcane industry whose quality has been significantly improved through Project Catalyst"




  • Habitat conversion;
  • Soil erosion and degradation;
  • Agrochemical use;
  • Water use and pollution;
  • Greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Labor and land tenure rights, health, payment (minimum wage and contracts) and training of workers.

  • Potential to reduce habitat destruction and biodiversity loss in some of the Earth’s most precious natural places;
  • Greenhouse gas avoidance and mitigation through biofuel production for fuel and plastics;
  • Improve water quality and availability;
  • Improve livelihoods.

Watch the stories of Queensland sugarcane farmers working with WWF

Be part of the solution

Sugar producers, traders and buyers, along with non-profits organisations involved in the sugar industry, can join Bonsucro to drive this industry towards more responsible practices. ► Visit the Bonsucro website 

When shopping, look for products with the Bonsucro label—an assurance that the sugar in this product was produced without causing environmental harm.
Bonsucro Logo
© Bonsucro Logo © Bonsucro

Bonsucro aims to improve the social, environmental, and economic sustainability of sugarcane.

Priority Countries

Brazil, India, China, Thailand, Pakistan, Australia, South Africa, Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia, Fiji

China, India, USA, EU, Japan, Brazil