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Ethical brand ratings and accreditation since 2001

Ethical sugar

Ethical & Fairtrade Sugar Brands

See our Ethical Sugar Ratings Table to compare brands

The unethical practices of many leading sugar brands

Sugar has been an important global commodity for centuries. Sugar is in so many of the food and drinks that we consume every day. We also use a lot of sugar in our homes, from cups of tea to baking cakes. Because of our daily use and the significance of sugar, we need to be mindful of the ethical impact of the sugar brands that we purchase from.

The sugar sector has been linked to a series of ethical concerns. Many popular sugar brands source from suppliers that have links to environmental degradation and human rights breaches. Opting for more ethical types of sugar, such as organic sugar and Fairtrade sugar can help with this. However, the most important thing is to choose an ethical sugar brand. Have a look at our Ethical Sugar Ratings Table to see which sugar brands make it to the top and which fail to meet ethical standards.

Child labour and sugar production

Sugar production typically occurs in countries with high poverty levels, leaving workers at risk of poor treatment and exploitation. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that there are 20 countries using child or forced labour in sugar production. This includes Brazil and India, the two largest sugar producers.

In 2019, The Guardian reported on child labour occurring in the sugar industry in Zimbabwe. According to the report, children as young as 7 are working on sugar plantations for as little as £3 a month. Buying Fairtrade sugar and avoiding sugar brands involved in child labour is one way you can address this.

Land degradation: Is organic sugar a solution?

The sugar industry also comes with environmental issues, with an estimated 5-6 million hectares of soil lost every year due to sugar cultivation and land degradation. This eroded soil enters streams, destroying marine habitats and polluting drinking water with harsh agro chemicals. 

Buying organic sugar can help to reduce the environmental cost of sugar production, as organic sugar is made without the use of harmful and polluting chemicals.  

Our Ethical Sugar Ratings Table provides you with all the information you need to purchase from the most ethical sugar brands, including which brands sell organic sugar and Fairtrade sugar. By comparing brands that receive the best and the worst scores, you can identify the best choice without having to do all the research yourself.

Our research: Unethical sugar brands and the lack of Fairtrade sugar

Our latest research reveals that many sugar brands are not offering Fairtrade sugar, leaving their supply chains open to human rights violations and exploitation.

As Fairtrade sugar is typically made with higher working standards for farmers, including higher pay and more job security, we are disappointed to see some sugar brands are still not accredited. Of the 10 sugar brands assessed within our research, 6 of these do not sell any Fairtrade sugar products! If you want to buy Fairtrade sugar, look for sugar brands that receive a top ethical rating under our Fairtrade category.

When purchasing from any brand, is it crucial to be aware of who their parent company is and what other industries they operate in. Many brands may seem ethical but, in truth, they are owned by a company that deals in other, more controversial, industries. 

For instance, Billington’s and Silver Spoon are owned by Associated British Foods (ABF), a company that has received much criticism in the past. ABF owns the well-known fast fashion chain, Primark, which is under constant scrutiny for its poor human rights and environmental practices. This is one of the reasons why Billington’s and Silver Spoon receive a low score of 39 in our research.


Ethical sugar, sugar cane farmer

How to buy ethical sugar: Look for Fairtrade and organic sugar brands

The unethical policies and practices from sugar brands may be alarming, but don’t worry, there are solutions. Whilst the most important step is choosing an ethical sugar brand, there are also other things you can do to become more ethical in your sugar consumption.

Firstly, consider buying Fairtrade sugar. Although Fairtrade sugar can be more expensive, this is typically because Fairtrade farmers receive better wages. We believe that cheap prices should not come at the cost of other people’s livelihoods, so purchasing Fairtrade sugar is a good way to ensure that supply chain workers are receiving fairer pay. 

Additionally, opting for organic sugar is a good way to reduce the environmental impact of your purchase. Organic sugar uses less harmful agro chemicals in the production process, which reduces the risk of soil pollution and habitat destruction. 

Agro chemicals also pollute rivers and streams, poisoning the local drinking water. This has a detrimental effect on local communities, depriving them of clean drinking water and exposing people to chemical-related illnesses. As organic sugar reduces the use of agro chemicals, it is far less harmful to people living near sugar plantations. 

To find organic sugar brands, look for companies that we awarded a top rating under the Organic criterion in our Ethical Sugar Ratings Table. There are several ethical sugar brands featured that offer both Fairtrade sugar and organic sugar, so you have a wide range of options for the next time you restock your cupboard. 

See our Ethical Sugar Ratings Table to compare brands

Our research team make in-depth analyses of the biggest and most popular brands of sugar. Find the brand of sugar you regularly use and click on its name to read a more detailed write-up on its ethics.

Equal Exchange, SumaBiona, Tate & Lyle, The Groovy Food Company, Whitworths, Billington’s and Silver Spoon.