• How is the sugar cane ethanol value chain structured, e.g., actors and stakeholders, mechanisms, and flows?
  • What are the roles, gaps and possibilities that different sectoral policies offer for tackling the identified issues in the ethanol-based biofuels supply chain?
  • What roles are other policies playing on biofuel/energy markets?
Belgium is relying on biofuels to achieve its CO2 emissions reductions. Previous studies have shown the negative effects associated with biodiesel production, but there’s insufficient information on negative effects around bioethanol production, which is expected to increase in the coming years. A previous Oxfam study has shed light on several human rights violations within sugar cane plantations, but there is insufficient information on shared responsibilities for these violations along the value chain. This research will give an answer to that. Building on the first research, the objective of this study will be to map the sugarcane ethanol value chain from Peru and Brazil into Belgium. It will also try to cast light on some of the loopholes in the legislation allowing for ethanol to flow into the EU, besides its clear contradictions with basic European human rights principles.
  • EU and Belgian climate and energy policies (energy directives such as REDIII, EU climate law, Belgian Climate and Energy Plan)
  • EU and Belgian initiatives on Human Rights Due Diligence
  • Investment and trade policies (EU-Mercosur agreement, EU-Peru-Colombia FTA, Green Bonds, Next Generation EU)
The biofuels supply chain is heavily influenced by the current trade regimes (FTAs), climate and energy policies as well as investment and fiscal policies (see above).
  • Document analysis: review of current legislation (e.g., energy, climate, trade agreements, HR) to see how it influences the demand, and which criteria for sustainability and human rights diligence are included in consumer and in producer countries – e.g., how land rights are protected, and conflicts resolved
  • Supply chain mapping
  • Policy analysis
  • Interviews and focus groups with stakeholders involved in the value chain from farmers to producing companies.
  • Data on food prices and food price changes.
  • Data on water consumption and ecosystem changes in the local area of production and data on climate change impacts in areas of production.
This case study will provide valuable information to improve EU policy coherence and enhance civil society dialogue. It will increase our understanding of existing and potential future risks of land use changes because of badly shaped climate change responses and EU renewable energy targets based on largely imported biofuels. The case study will provide recommendations on the related policy areas. The case study will have impacts at three levels:
  • Short-term: Consumer awareness.
  • Mid-term: EU and Belgian legislation.
  • Long-Term: Improved livelihoods (e.g., secure access to food, land, water, income), reduced emissions, and improved adaptive capacity vis à vis climate change.

Case Study Leader

Oxfam Solidarité - Oxfam Solidariteit

SDG's Addressed


Geographical Focus and Scale


Product and market focus

Sugar cane ethanol used as a biofuel, European Union

Key stakeholders

  • Research design: farmers, local authorities, companies and legislators
  • Research level and data gathering: Farmers, local authorities, producing companies, transforming partners
  • Sharing outputs: local authorities, companies, local and international NGOs (e.g., CLARA network) through video conferences and printed materials; consumer and the wider audience through media; engaging with legislators to improve relevant legislation based on the results of the case study