Working conditions in the Mexican sugar industry are far from ideal, and brands sourcing their sugar from the region are already actively engaging to implement improvements. AIM-PROGRESS is now looking to give more impetus by facilitating collaborative improvement projects, instead of each company working in isolation, often with the same suppliers.
As a first step, four AIM-PROGRESS members - Coca-Cola, Kellogg, Nestlé and PepsiCo - hosted an industry awareness workshop on 14 November in Mexico City, gathering 70 delegates from sugar cane growers, sugar corporations, traders/refiners, NGOs and civil society as well as representatives from the Mexican government (Labor, Social Development, Agriculture and Finance Institutions).
The morning started with PWC pointing out the risk if companies and their supply chains do not act rapidly to embed the UN SDGs into their businesses, with compelling examples of negative impact on business performance. Nicaraguan Mill Ingenio San Antonio shared their best practices around hydration, shade/rest programs for workers thereby reducing CKD disease risk among their workforce. ABC and World Vision talked about their work around improving shelter conditions and preventing child labor in particular among migrant workers.
During a series of afternoon workshops dealing with shelters, rest/shade/hydration and child labor, participants had the opportunity to identify barriers and suggest actions for the short and long term, to address the endemic problems in the industry. 90%+ of attendees reported this was a helpful event that will enhance their sustainability journey.
The next step will be to focus on a specific collaborative remediation project between brands and the local sugar industry, with the aim to roll out concrete improvements during the harvesting season.