Sustainable agriculture

The Südzucker Group processes around 20 million tonnes of beet each year, produced on 400,000 hectares. Saint Louis Sucre promotes the implementation of sustainable agricultural practices for its growers, of which more than 80% of the beets are certified RedCert Silver level. The RedCert standard is recognised by the SAI (Sustainable Agriculture Initiative) platform. This organisation, founded by major players in the food industry and of which the Südzucker group is a member, enables food companies using sugar to ensure that it is made from sustainably produced beet. Saint Louis Sucre deploys a vast system of support for its growers and training for its internal teams in this certification, which is audited annually. Saint Louis Sucre growers are certified Redcert Silver level.

The search for sustainable alternatives to the use of certain phytosanitary products is at the heart of the efforts of Saint Louis Sucre and the sugar beet sector.

The Mont Blanc programme deployed at Saint Louis Sucre and within the Südzucker group aims to support growers in their agroecological transition while ensuring the economic sustainability of their farms. Based on a pragmatic approach, Mont Blanc relies on the sharing of experience among growers, through a monitoring network, pilot farms and dedicated meeting days.

Energy and emissions

During the period 1990-2019, energy consumption by production activities within the Südzucker Group has been reduced by 30%.  The use of fuel from renewable sources represents more than 50 Gwh/year, equivalent to the energy needs of 15,000 four-person households.

Thanks to the cogeneration facilities (self-generation of electricity with the use of heat for sugar production), electricity consumption from the public grid represents less than 5% of the overall electricity consumption at Saint Louis Sucre. Major investments have been made in recent years to reduce energy consumption. Currently, 70% of the energy produced by our sugar factories is recovered.

Between 1990 and 2019, greenhouse gas emissions from production activities were reduced by 43%. The Südzucker Group’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 (1990 base).

In the sugar business, the only significant greenhouse gas emitted is CO2 from the smoke of our combustion installations. Controlling CO2 emissions is therefore an important issue for Saint Louis Sucre. The reduction of our CO2 emissions is directly linked to our energy recovery actions. The choice of rail transport instead of road transport for the transport of sugar also contributes to the reduction of our carbon footprint. Knowing that one train can replace 22 tank trucks, several thousand tonnes of sugar are transported from our Etrépagny factory in an environmentally friendly manner each year. The geographical location of the Saint Louis Sucre sugar factories, in the centre of some of the most fertile areas in Europe, guarantees a controlled transport distance for the beet. This proximity of the factories to their growing area is the key to a circular economy that is expressed on a regional scale. It is reflected in the use by growers of the soil and limestone amendments resulting from the processing of sugar beet.

Water

As sugar beet contains on average 75% water, the extraction of sugar from beet generates a significant amount of water (from the beet flesh, collected in the juice concentration stage). Beet itself is a low water consumption crop and requires little irrigation – over 98% of the beet grown in the Südzucker Group is grown without irrigation.

The water recovered from the beet is reused in the sugar process. For several years now, numerous investments have been made to this effect (separation of circuits, storage tanks, etc.). The recycling of the water that makes up the beet is a constant throughout the manufacturing process.

As a result, water taken from the natural environment represents only 1% of a sugar factory’s consumption.

Excess water and fertilising elements from the beet washing process at the factory entrance (soil adhering to the beet with its natural fertilising elements, including organic matter, broken beet, and potassium from the beet diffused in the washing water) are returned each year to the natural environment by spreading earthy water in the autumn, sprinkling decanted water rich in potassium in the spring and summer, and returning the decanted soil to the fields in basins.

These good agronomic and environmental practices make it possible to :

  • Recycle topsoil with its mineral and organic elements,
  • Participate in the mitigation of natural soil erosion by adding soil,
  • Recycle the water that makes up the beet at the level of the water table while preserving its quality,
  • Save water in the aquifers, especially during water stress in summer,
  • Reduce external chemical mineral inputs (nitrogen, potassium).

Waste

Nothing is lost in sugar beet. In fact, during the sugar extraction process, 100% of the elements that make up the beet are reused in one way or another, whether it be water, co-products used for animal feed or organic amendment for the fields. In the sugar factory, 99% of our waste is recovered in the form of materials or energy.

Waste from other activities, such as packaging and administration, is selectively sorted, with great attention paid to recycling.

Biodiversity

In 2021, Saint Louis Sucre proposes to help growers who wish to do so to establish flowered areas on their farms that are favourable to biodiversity. To this end, batches of melliferous mixtures are made available to them free of charge (within the limits of available stocks). Each batch can be used to flower 1000 m². Within the Südzucker Group, 1,300 flower strips have already been sown in this way since 2019, with the aim of reaching 1,800 by 2021.

The ponds around our plants provide a habitat for more than 100 species of birds.

Organic beet sugar

The Südzucker Group produces organic sugar and offers its customers 5 different certifications in this field. In France, Saint Louis Sucre was the first French company to offer consumers white organic beet sugar on the retail market.

Logistics

Every year, the Südzucker Group delivers more than 8 million tonnes of products to its customers. More than 50% of its sugar is transported in bulk. The transport of sugar beet during the harvest period (or campaign) is largely concerned by environmental issues, through two axes: reducing the volume of soil transported and reducing the number of truck rotations.

Earth removal, which consists of removing the soil from the beets in the field, has been in general use at Saint Louis Sucre for over ten years. By reducing the amount of soil transported in the trucks, digging up the soil reduces the number of truck rotations, and consequently reduces transport-related nuisances and CO2 emissions. In 10 years, the volume of soil transported per tonne of sugar has decreased by 25%.

Saint Louis Sucre has introduced and developed the so-called “44-tonne” transport system, which allows transporters to load an average of 12% more beet per truck. This has led to a reduction in the number of rotations, thus reducing fuel consumption for beet transport.

Packaging

Some of the products marketed by Saint Louis Sucre are sold to supermarket and catering customers. These products, packaged in different formats, are subject to an eco-design approach in order to reduce their environmental impact. Saint Louis Sucre is working on this subject in partnership with Citeo.

The recyclability of packaging is also a factor taken into account when developing the various types of packaging. For several years, Saint Louis has been working to eliminate plastic. For example, the plastic window has disappeared from its cases and packs, saving 100 tonnes of plastic. The elimination of plastic also concerns the elements added to the packaging, such as self-adhesive labels.

In order to guarantee food safety for consumers, the primary paper and cardboard packaging used by Saint Louis Sucre are made exclusively of virgin fibre. This same packaging comes from eco-managed forests in order to limit the environmental impact.

Saint Louis is also continuing its efforts to reduce the thickness of its packaging, in cardboard or polyethylene. The green brand also eliminates certain packaging whenever possible, for example, on packs alone, the elimination of the outer layer of polyethylene saves around 9 tonnes of polyethylene per year.

Taking recyclability into account also applies to secondary packaging (bundles, pallet caps, covers, etc.): polyethylene is gradually being replaced by recycled polyethylene. In the case of pouring cartons, the reduction in the thickness of the polyethylene in the bundles has made it possible to save around 5 tonnes of polyethylene per year. In addition, in the retail sector, our non-recyclable polystyrene logistics supports have been replaced by recycled and recyclable cardboard, saving 2 tonnes of polystyrene per year.

Throughout the Südzucker Group, 98% of small sugar packages are made of paper, which will soon be 100% FSC certified. The Südzucker Group aims to reduce the amount of polyethylene used in its packaging by 10% by 2022. The Südzucker Group is committed to making all plastic sugar packaging 100% recyclable by the end of 2022.