Corporate social responsibility Cosun is responsible for everything that happens within the business groups. How safe are working conditions? How do we use the raw materials, energy and water? And we feel equally responsible for how our raw materials are grown and for the inconvenience to local residents caused by our factories.

A business must meet the needs of its customers and create value for its stakeholders. The figure below shows what we did with the value Cosun created in 2016. We paid the members for the beet they supplied, including the members’ bonus, we paid salaries to the employees and remitted taxes to the government. We also invested some of the results in the further growth and development of Cosun.

Added value (in millions of euros) 2016   2015
Net turnover 1.988   1,948
Other revenue and stock movements -/-   13   39
Payments to suppliers of raw materials -/- 965   -/- 981
Payments to other suppliers -/- 353   -/- 364
Added value created 657   642
Employees (salaries) 243   255
Members (beet payments and members’ bonus) 237   230
Financiers (interest) 3   6
Government (taxes) 18   8
Value created for stakeholders 501   499
Retained profit 56   46
Depreciation and amortisation 100   98
Value created for reinvestment 156   143

As well as creating value for our stakeholders, principally the members of the cooperative, we have identified four areas where we are able and willing to bring our influence to bear:
  • optimising farm production in recognition of our responsibility to growers and the environment;
  • optimising production processes with a view to maximising the use of raw materials and conserving the environment;
  • investing in staff skills and a safe working environment;
  • respecting the interests of other stakeholders and being accountable to them.

Sustainable cultivation means realising the highest possible yield per hectare using the fewest possible inputs. New varieties and modern processing techniques are good for the soil and biodiversity. Soil conservation and biodiversity are important factors for the longer-term security of food supplies. We and our growers are therefore investing in the further improvement, optimisation and sustainability of cultivation. Cosun is an active participant in many initiatives, such as the SAI Platform for sustainable agriculture, the Skylark Foundation for sustainable arable farming and the Beet Cultivation and Biodiversity project.

The agricultural services and agronomists at our business groups help the growers and suppliers of our raw materials improve their crops. Crop registration programmes increase our insight into the performance of our growers and enhance the transparency of the production chains. About 60% of all sugar beet growers entered all their 2016 crop data in Suiker Unie’s crop registration system, Unitip, during the year. Sensus has introduced a similar programme, Crop-R. About 80% of all chicory growers recorded their data in 2016. Aviko and SVZ are also investing in registration programmes. The more we buy on contract from growers, the easier it is to organise the programmes.

Our factories need energy to process raw materials into foodstuffs and intermediate products. Energy use per tonne of product is a measure of the efficiency of our production processes: the lower the better. In 2010, Cosun set itself the goal of using 2% less energy per annum. So far, we have met this target every year. If we continue to meet it until 2020, we will have reduced our energy use by 20% in comparison with 2010. Our CO2 emission in 2016 was 0.21 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of product (2015: 0.22 tonne of CO2 per tonne of product). The volume of organic matter was lower than in the previous year, chiefly because of the amount of beet pulp we fermented in our own digesters to produce green gas. There was an increase in other waste products, largely because we demolished some older facilities, such as the washing house at the sugar factory in Groningen. If we ignore this waste, there was a decline in the volume of mixed waste we produced.

Cosun aims to offer all its staff a safe workplace and opportunities to develop themselves and their skills. Good working conditions are important for both the employees’ wellbeing and their productivity.

Safety at work is a key priority. The number of lost-time incidents has been declining over recent years. In 2016 there were 21 such incidents per 1,000 FTEs, down from 24 in 2015. To continue this downward trend, Cosun will take extra measures to reduce the number of lost-time incidents. Near-incidents, incidents and unsafe situations will be analysed in order to improve the workplace and staff conduct. The rate of sickness absenteeism rose fractionally from 3.9% to 4.0% but is still below the industry average calculated by Statistics Netherlands (2015: 4.8%).

In full time equivalents, the number of employees at Cosun was slightly lower, down from 3,912 in 2015 to 3,896 in 2016. The number of temporary employees, on the contrary, was higher than in 2015. The number of men in the workforce has always been far higher than the number of women but there was a slight change in the ratio during the year: in 2016 77% of all employees were men and 23% were women. In 2015 the percentage of women had been 21%.

Staff often enjoy a long career with us and accumulate a great deal of knowledge and experience. It is important that they continue to develop their know-how and skills so that they remain employable. We therefore invest in our people by offering them education and training. The average number of training days per employee in 2016 was three.

Cosun offered 118 young people – 74 university students and 44 vocational students – a work placement or graduation project in the Netherlands in 2016. About three-quarters of the work placements and projects relate to process technology, research and development, and quality. As a socially responsible business, Cosun offers placements so that young people can gain relevant work experience. Experienced members of staff act as supervisors and coaches. This costs time, of course, but it is not without results. Young people provide know-how and extra capacity that benefit Cosun and increases the dynamics within the organisation.

More and more companies are selecting their suppliers on the basis of their working conditions and social policies. Cosun’s major international customers also set high standards. And they want assurances that the Cosun business groups can meet them. To this end, Sensus and SVZ are members of Sedex, and Aviko is a member of the RSPO (the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil). They are audited by these organisations and the findings are available to our customers.

Cosun has also introduced the Cosun Principles for directors, managers and staff. They describe how we should conduct ourselves and what we can be held accountable for, not only by each other but also by our customers, business associates and the society of which we are a part. The Cosun Principles can be read on our website at – About Cosun – Corporate Governance.