Pressure from the major users and traders of sugarcane derived products led to the formation of Bonsucro, a multi-stakeholder organisation to promote sustainable sugarcane production. Bonsucro developed an international standard that sets legal, environmental, social and technical criteria to which operators must conform to achieve certification. The standard is made up of a series of metric ... [Show full abstract] indicators that signify whether the practices in place meet sustainability levels. To date, 38 mills have been certified, representing an area of ca. 870 000 ha. After two years of activity, it was decided that some indicators needed improvement, as experience showed either their limit or their imperfection.
The Bonsucro sustainable water usage indicator was reconsidered because it addressed only irrigation water use and did not take climatic conditions into account. In its place, a new, innovative indicator was developed that addresses water use in relation to productivity of water. An indicator addressing water-scarcity had been evaluated but it did not meet the criteria allowing its inclusion in the Bonsucro standard and therefore is not discussed here. The indicator introduced here evaluates the productivity of water use – crop per drop. It was evaluated by comparing sugarcane yields among fields within a climate zone. The indicator rewards efficient performers, defined as those exceeding a target yield defined as the 50th percentile of historical yield data in each climate zone. Rainfed and irrigated systems are evaluated separately. The advantages and the limitations of this new indicator, its potential application to other crops, and the possibility of improvement to include further criteria are discussed.