Environmental impacts of sugarcane production

Many ecosystems in the tropics have been irreversibly changed as a result of sugarcane plantations. Today, these impacts are still being felt. Fortunately, there are ways to produce sugar in much less environmentally damaging ways. What exactly are the problems that we have to address?


  • Habitat loss and ecosystem degradation: with millions of hectares under production, the sheer scale of sugarcane has degraded tropical forests, fragile coastal wetlands and islands. A dozen countries around the world devote 25% or more of all their agricultural land to the production of sugarcane.
  • Chemicals, silt and sludge: fertilizers and other agrochemicals, and silt from eroded soils can pollute water courses, affecting people and wildlife. Wastewater from processing mills is a problem too.
  • Erosion and degradation: when natural vegetation is removed to make way for sugarcane, soils are left exposed. This leads to erosion, loss of nutrients and hence more reliance on costly, environmentally damaging solutions—fertilizers.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / John E. Newby
Use of inefficient irrigation systems on sugar cane plantations leaves less water for wildlife and people.
© WWF-Canon / John E. Newby

Be part of the solution

Sugar producers, traders and buyers, along with non-profits 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.

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