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Social Case Study

6 January 2017

Connecting our people and building expertise across our businesses

Connecting our people and building expertise across our businesses


To continue growing sustainably in the future, AB Sugar works to maintain a strong pipeline of talent across a wide range of functions, from agriculture to engineering. A key part of this is aiming to ensure that the next generation of workers are equipped with the right skills to ensure the smooth operation of our business and contribute to their local communities.

What we did

A range of initiatives and projects have been implemented across AB Sugar to allow its people to fully realise their potential.

Four years ago, AB Sugar introduced a website, AB Sugar Community, with the aim to enhance social and collaborative learning by encouraging employees across the group to share ideas and seek solutions to shared challenges.

In the last year, the business has worked hard to promote this ambition more widely, resulting in the number of active users doubling to more than 1,500. There are now 150 different groups in the online Community covering a huge range of topics and business areas. As a result of this collaboration between businesses, best practice is now being shared more easily and individual networks are growing.

Another way that AB Sugar helps its people grow their networks and their awareness of the wider business is through the International Experience Programme. As well as increasing their cultural awareness, participants are able to develop networks across the business, which can support them as they seek to build an international career and grow within the business.

Participants also enjoy accelerated development through a structured and supported experience which enables them to see their role from a different perspective, while further developing existing skills. In turn, the business benefits considerably from having future leaders with diverse experience who can help deliver our vision to be the world’s leading sugar business.

For example, AB Sugar China has created a graduate trainee programme to provide a talent pipeline of future managers. AB Sugar China provides systematic, structured and long term training and development to the graduates to enable their growth and development with the organisation. The graduate trainee programme is a three-year scheme that typically takes five to seven years for graduates to be ready for a mid-level manager position.

In South Africa, Illovo has identified a capability gap at factory supervisors and farm manager level, with many of the current employees approaching retirement. Illovo has created an agricultural programme for farm managers, with the programme now in its fifth year. It has expanded on this by creating the Illovo Technical Academy with factory delegates being trained on campus through eight-week residential courses.


The International Experience Programme is now in its fifth year. To date, 46 employees from across AB Sugar have completed a six-month placement in another part of the group.

One employee, Javier Varela, who completed a placement at Illovo from Azucarera through the IEP, commented: “Since I returned from my IEP I have been a different person. Apart from what I learnt there and the technical work I did, I was able to grow and take the opportunity of LIVING and WORKING along with the Zambians. I lived with people, cultures, habits and ways of working that are very different from what I am used to and I now have a much broader professional and personal outlook” Javier Varela, from Miranda de Ebro (Azucarera) to Illovo.  

Seven training programmes have been held at the Illovo Technical Academy. The academy is located next to one of our factories to enhance the delivery of the practical aspects of the curriculum. Delegates receive on-the-job practical assignments, ensuring the swift transfer of learning to operations. Additionally, formal training programmes to develop future potential leaders were attended by more than 100 company employees, underlining the group’s robust succession planning processes.

AB Sugar China has been running the Beet and Technical Academies for five years. Hundreds of employees have been trained within the academies which are playing an important role in developing and delivering future based capabilities for AB Sugar China.

Examples of successful knowledge transfer via the Communities of Practice resource include Illovo supporting AB Sugar China on electrical safety and British Sugar advising Azucarera on cheaper and more efficient cleaning chemicals.

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AB Sugar China Azucarera British Sugar Germains Seed Technology Illovo Sugar Group Vivergo Fuelds