Social Dialogue and CSR in the Sugar Sector

Corporate Social Responsibility in the EU sugar industry – read the CEFS-EFFAT brochure

CEFS and EFFAT issue Joint Declaration on Juncker’s Industrial Policy Strategy

CEFS-EFFAT Joint Statement on the end of quotas

The EU Beet Sugar Sustainability Partnership (EU BSSP)

‘Making the sugar world a better place’ – The EU Sugar Industry CSR Report 2015 is now available (March 2016)

EU Beet Sugar Sustainability Partnership

EU Sugar Sector Socio-demographic Analysis

The EU sugar industry is committed to creating added human and social value by incorporating corporate social responsibility (CSR) into all its activities. Established in 1969, just after the creation of the Sugar CMO, social dialogue in the European sugar industry has brought together employers, represented by CEFS, and employees, represented by EFFAT, for almost 50 years.

Official recognition of these social partners by the European Commission was formalised in 1999 with the creation of the social dialogue committee for the sugar industry. In 2003, CEFS and EFFAT voluntarily became engaged in CSR and agreed on a Code of Conduct that sets eight compulsory minimum social standards and basic rights. CSR reflects the commitment of the social partners to progressively develop the overall sustainability of the sugar industry. Some fifty examples of best practices are regularly updated and serve as an inspiration for sugar companies.

Every other year, a report is presented to the European Commission concerning the implementation of the Code of Conduct and examples of new and developing good practices. These reports can be consulted at the joint CEFS-EFFAT website www.

First produced in 2004, this brochure is an important tool for dissemination of the principles of CSR and for visibility of the added value to the sectoral social dialogue. This update is particularly relevant as the EU sector enters a new era following the end of production quotas on 30 September 2017.

Read the full brochure here.

CEFS and EFFAT have joined together to publish the following Joint Declaration on President Juncker’s Industrial Policy Strategy.

Sugar production in the EU is an industrial activity.

The construction of a sugar factory entails high capital costs, typically of several hundred million euros. Not the least of these costs is the specialised equipment and heavy machinery required to produce sugar at scale.

The process of sugar production is also highly technical, and requires skilled engineers, experienced process managers, and highly-qualified chemists to run smoothly.

CEFS and EFFAT – representing EU sugar producers and workers – therefore welcome the Industrial Policy Strategy presented by President Juncker at his recent state of the union speech. Two aspects of these strategy strike us as relevant to our sector:

1) The Skills Agenda. The EU beet sugar sector sometimes has difficulty recruiting skilled workers. The promotion of vocational training and the introduction of a Skills Profile Tool Kit for Third Country Nationals are welcome.

2) The circular economy. Sugar producers are key contributors to the circular economy. No part of the sugar beet is wasted: the pulp is used for animal feed, and the moisture in the root is used to provide almost all of the requirements in the factory. Increasingly, EU sugar producers are undertaking research into the production of bioplastics and biochemical. Any action to promote the circular economy is welcome.

The EU sugar industry has made giant steps forward in recent years. Investment in technical improvements and cost reductions have resulted in a decrease in real terms of production costs since 1990. But the industry is at a turning point.

With the end of quotas the EU beet sugar sector faces a prolonged period of uncertainty. This could threaten the livelihoods of the 28,000 direct employees and many more indirect jobs that depend on the sector.

We call for an Industrial Policy Strategy that supports the EU sugar sector and recognises it as an industrial sector that contributes to rural economic activity and employment. We consider, notably, the protection of our sector in ongoing bilateral trade negotiations as essential in this regard.

CEFS and EFFAT stand ready to engage with the European Commission to ensure that the Industrial Policy Strategy is a success for the EU sugar sector.

For the .pdf file, click here:

CEFS-EFFAT joint declaration on the Industrial Policy Strategy

On 6 March 2017 representatives of employers (CEFS) and workers (EFFAT – the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions) in the EU beet sugar sector met in a plenary meeting of the EU Sugar Sector Social Dialogue.

The EU beet sugar industry is preparing for one of the biggest changes in its history: the end of production quotas on 1 October 2017. The end of quotas presents substantial opportunities for EU beet sugar manufacturers, in particular the possibility to produce more sugar for food use and to export without limits.

Nevertheless, the end of production quotas could put the sector under pressure. Competition will intensify, lower white sugar prices are possible, and isoglucose is expected to take an increased market share. Less competitive EU beet sugar manufacturers may struggle to survive in a harsher market environment. This could have consequences for the 28,000 direct workers and 137,000 farmers that depend on the sector, as well as for the vulnerable rural communities of which sugar factories are often the economic backbone.

Consequently, CEFS and EFFAT take this historic opportunity to present four recommendations in the form of a Joint Statement on the end of quotas to support the sector in this period of uncertainty.

The Joint Statement can be read in full at the link underneath:

17.03.06 CEFS-EFFAT joint statement on end of quotas – vFinal

At their annual working group meeting between trade unions and employers in the EU sugar sector on 18 October 2016, the social partners exchanged on the prospects and risks expected to accompany the end of the quota system in 2017.

During the meeting, which was sponsored by the European Commission, it was highlighted that the reform of the sugar sector must be seen in the broader context not only of Common Agricultural Policy reform but also of the EU’s external trade policies.

The EU beet sugar sector is of great importance to the EU rural economy. Within the EU, the sector employs 30,000 direct and 150,000 indirect jobs. In addition, the sector supports the livelihoods of 140,000 sugar beet growers.

The end of production quotas will be accompanied by social consequences within the European Union. Already over the last decade the EU sugar industry closed almost half its factories with the loss of 4.5 million tonnes of production capacity, over 24,000 direct jobs and 165,000 sugar beet growers. These changes affected mainly rural areas.

Outside of the EU, further trade liberalisation threatens preference mechanisms for the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries that currently enjoy duty-free quota-free access to the EU sugar market, and threatens to encourage exploitative and unsustainable sugar production practices in third countries.

The issues are important and give rise to the following salient questions:

How could EU regulation – in particular the Common Agricultural Policy pre- and post- 2020 – support the sector in its efforts to secure future efficiency gains and further increase its competitiveness?

Knowing that the EU will soon have one of the most liberal sugar market markets worldwide, how does the European Commission intend to challenge the trade-distorting support policies of major sugar producers and exporters?

And last but not least,

How does the European Commission plan to manage the social consequences that may arise should sugar prices fall to the levels forecast in the Commission’s medium-term prospects for agricultural markets 2015-2025?


Note: EFFAT and CEFS have a long-standing social dialogue- at European level- over 40 years. Social dialogue consists of an organised and structured dialogue between employers and employee’s representatives on all matters related to the social impacts of the companies’ activities. EFFAT and CEFS have developed tools for innovative good social practices across Europe. Together they are working towards a highly efficient sugar sector, with high quality manufacturing jobs and which is respectful of the environment.


Brussels, 2 March 2016

At yesterday’s annual meeting between trade unions and employers in the EU sugar sector, hosted by the European Commission in the framework of its social dialogue policy, the social partners expressed deep worries about risks and economic uncertainties ahead of the end of the quota system in 2017 and the absence of fair competition and a level playing field for their industry.

The renewed CAP policy for beet sugar means that from next year the EU will have one of the most liberal sugar markets in the world. Meanwhile, other major sugar-exporting countries, such as Brazil, India and Thailand, are maintaining and even increasing measures to protect and subsidise their cane and sugar industries.

Not only are such policies making producers in these countries artificially competitive, they are also fostering over-production that is dumped onto the world market at prices below the average costs of production. This dumping depresses world market prices and is aggravating excessive volatility on the world sugar market.

The EU white sugar price is moving closer to the world market price and is expected to track it in the coming years. A depressed and volatile world sugar market could therefore have serious consequences for employment in the beet sugar sector. As EU prices threaten to sink below local production costs, with potential serious negative consequences for the concerned workers and for their continued participation in work, the EU institutions and operators need to anticipate and organise socially acceptable responses.

The EU beet sugar sector is one of the most competitive in the world. Over the past 25 years, the industry has managed to consistently reduce production costs relative to inflation. However, without a level playing field our industry is left at the mercy of the unaccountable and trade-distorting policies of the major sugar producers.

One of the European Union’s key goals is to strive towards “the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress, and a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment …” (Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union).  Work is undeniably a fundamental activity in achieving that goal and shaping societal progress.

The social partners of the sugar sector therefore call on the EU to push for a global agreement, involving all key players in the world sugar market, to end all subsidies and other trade-distorting policies affecting sugar. In that way, the EU will support a level playing field for the EU’s highly efficient sugar sector, with high-quality manufacturing jobs and which is respectful of the environment.

About the social partners and social dialogue in the EU sugar sector:

The EU sugar sector is one of the few food industries in Europe and the world to have developed a compulsory Code of Conduct on corporate social responsibility (CSR) matters. At their annual meeting on 1 March 2016, the social partners adopted their 13th annual CSR implementation report, which derives from the Code of Conduct signed by labour unions and sugar companies in 2003. The report, along with further information about social dialogue and good social practices, can be found on the following websites:

Press contacts: Estelle Brentnall (EFFAT, +32 2 209 62 69, and Oscar Ruiz (CEFS, +32 2 774 51 07,

Formed in 2013 as a coalition between EU beet growers (represented by CIBE), sugar producers (CEFS) and trade unions in the food and agriculture sectors (EFFAT), the Partnership exists to demonstrate sustainability throughout the beet sugar industry in the region.



In line with the Europe 2020 strategy for a ‘smarter, more sustainable and more inclusive growth’ for the EU, the partnership agreement aims to highlight and facilitate further the dissemination good agricultural, industrial, social and environmental practices in the sector, while taking into account the relevant elements of economic sustainability providing stable and reliable beet sugar production in the EU.

The partners are working together, engaging in a constructive dialogue and exchange with third parties, while managing the overall process so as to deliver meaningful results for the sector.

The partners have developed a range of documents and materials to meet your specific needs and interests.

The Good Practices capture a wide variety of sustainability techniques, tools and practices used by the sector, underpinned by a commitment to technical environmental excellence and social dialogue.

The Good Practices represent an opportunity to share and develop our performance across the sector and the region. They provide a platform to make our practices and commitments clear for our stakeholders. And they serve as the basis for strong and transparent engagement with markets and policy makers going forward.

(Click in the image to download the report)

cover CSR 2015

The EU Beet Sugar Sustainability Partnership (EU BSSP) has announced the launch of its first joint initiative on sustainability throughout the sector.


Click on the picture to download the Press Release:





Prepared jointly by EFFAT (trade unions representing employees) and CEFS (representing employers), the EU Sugar industry CSR report 2014 is now available. To access the full pdf report click here.

End of 2013, European beet growers (CIBE), sugar producers (CEFS) and trade unions of the food and agriculture sector (EFFAT) formalised a landmark agreement to jointly highlight and report on representative Good Practices of sustainable production of beet sugar in the EU.

To read the Partnership Announcement you can click here.

Cover EU BSSP AnnouncementCover Announcement EU BSSP

Why sustainability?

Sustainability is a multidimensional concept that encompasses economic viability, environmental protection and social responsibility. With its flagship ‘Europe 2020 strategy’ the EU has put sustainability at the heart of the European project with the purpose of creating conditions of growth that is ‘smarter, more sustainable and more inclusive’. 

This partnership agreement between European beet growers, sugar producers and trade unions in the beet sugar sector aims toreport on good agricultural, industrial, social and environmental practices for the sector while taking into account the relevant elements of economic viability needed for stable and reliable beet sugar production in the EU.


Why now?

European beet sugar production has achieved high levels of sustainability through continuous improvement in all three dimensions of sustainability (economic, environmental and social) in recent decades. Their more recent sustainability performance is recorded in the joint environmental and social projects set up in the last decade and still ongoing (see ‘further reading’ section at the end of this document).

The three partners of the European beet sugar sector acknowledge that in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of their sector they must continue to develop and disseminate good practices that support the consolidation of sustainable practices in EU beet growing and processing. Hence, through a common understanding of what constitutes sustainable production of beet sugar in Europe, the partners’ aims are:

  1. To facilitate the access to and dissemination of knowledge regarding sustainable practices in the sector.
  2. To help consolidate sustainable practices in EU beet growing and processing.
  3. To provide a platform for future dialogue in the field of sustainabilitywith other sector stakeholders.

 How will the project be carried out?

The partners have agreed to create a working platform, including a steering committee and three technical working groups, covering notably agriculture, industrial and social aspects of beet sugar production in Europe. In addition, partners intend to involve external expertise to provide independent advice for this partnership.

The partners will be working together, engaging in a constructive dialogue and exchange with other stakeholders, while managing the overall process to deliver a concrete outcome for the sector within the following timeline:


What topics will be dealt with in this sustainability partnership?

Although only the joint work of the partners and, later on, the consultation of stakeholders will determine the final outcome of this joint work, the partners have agreed that as many topics as possible should be looked at, including at least the following:

Further reading:

In order to know more about the European beet sugar chain partners and their sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility record, you can refer to the following documents:

–        EFFAT-CEFS annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) implementation reports (2003-2012):

–        CIBE-CEFS joint reports on environmental sustainability (2003, 2010):

–        Study on ‘The Carbon Footprint of EU Beet Sugar’ (2012):