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An innovative step to improve the Bonsucro Production Standard

Including the concept of decent work

In the coming months, the Bonsucro Production Standard is being be updated. CNV Internationaal will contribute to the consultation, as a member of Bonsucro representing the interests of workers. Inclusion of the concept of living wages within the standard would greatly increase credibility of the Standard according to CNV Internationaal.

In the words of Marit Maij (managing director CNV Internationaal): “Markets and investors increasingly demand that the concept of living wages be included in the value chain of responsible companies, that is why we consider that the concept of living wages is perfectly in line with the Bonsucro Production Standard.”

Like many other certifying organizations, in recent years the Bonsucro Production Standard has focused primarily on environmental and economic sustainability. “But we believe that it is time to pay more attention to the development of social sustainability.” Although this aspect is already being considered, there is still room for improvement and especially now that the COVID-19 pandemic shows us where the flaws are.

It is key to strengthen the social component throughout the value chain of the sugar sector. It should be made more resilient, sustainable and fair, avoiding that those who are at the beginning of the production chain pay the highest price of the crisis.

Minimum wage often much lower than living wage
We are convinced that the concept of a living wage would increase the credibility of the Bonsucro Production Standard. The mere guarantee of a minimum wage is not enough to maintain the credibility of the standard. In practice, the minimum wage is often still much lower than the living wage.

Increasingly, the market will demand the inclusion of the living wage concept. For example, the food and agriculture industry and the vast majority of investors around the world consider the concept of a living wage to be of great importance. An example of this is the Dutch platform, “Living Wage Financials”, in which several investors participate. They started a joint cooperation to stimulate a decent wage for workers in the textile industry. Now they are getting into food brands and supermarkets.

Living wage concept will prevent race to the bottom
The (labor) market determines, to some extent, the rates of wages. But the market does not always work perfectly. Child labor, forced labor, and occupational health problems often contribute to keeping wages low. Therefore, each country's minimum wage is not necessarily a guarantee for a living wage. This living wage concept is crucial if we really want to rid the market of such practices and avoid a race to the bottom.

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Publication date 29 04 2020