Page Rip

26 September 2017

A collaborative approach delivers results across our international business


The strength and success of our Group has been achieved by embracing our international diversity, yet collaboration across continents is not always a smooth operation. AB Sugar’s award-winning social collaboration approach firstly connects our businesses and the key people within them, and secondly, facilitates collective learning.

What we did

Instead of undertaking formal learning programmes to educate and improve our employees’ capability, we recognised that they could learn in an informal but highly effective way from other colleagues in the Group, who would be closer to their learning needs than any external trainer.

This led us to establish ‘Communities of Practice’ to link our employees together from across our Group who operate in similar operational functions and roles to share their problems, solutions and successes.  This involved setting up a social learning platform, ‘AB Sugar Community’ and developing activity plans that build capability and professional networks, delivered through webinars and face to face sessions.  A key factor in their success comes from the network of leaders, facilitators and local ‘community’ champions who provide energy, passion and process governance. Within the platform all information and resources are searchable, making it an invaluable tool to save time by finding solutions or people with the right expertise and knowledge quickly. This comes to the forefront when problems arise and the platform pulls together over 21,000+ years of industry experience to identify credible solutions that save both time and money.

In addition to this social platform, a range of complementary tools have been integrated across the business including Skype for Business, video conferencing and WebEx. Committed to promoting collaborative learning in all its guises, we also bolstered these tools with offline activities including an internal awards programme, sharing and mirroring the successful projects across the Group.

Taking a unique approach to understanding our businesses, organisational network analysis has provided further insight into our learning networks. Previously people may not have known or connected with those doing similar jobs elsewhere in the Group; however through undertaking the analysis this has led to connecting them together via new Communities of Practice and extending the reach of others.


The scale of this project encompasses embedding a new way of working in six businesses across 10 countries and in multiple languages. This required monumental change from both a technical and cultural perspective. Yet the success has come from developing an integrated approach that has improved the connectivity within the Group and continues to develop key capabilities. 

In measuring the value of our communities, success is identified using both qualitative and quantitative data. This knowledge enables the project team to analyse the results and plan ongoing improvements.

The success of the initiative has been recognised by numerous industry awards including most recently the Brandon Hall Group Excellence in Learning Awards, where AB Sugar was awarded Silver in the ‘Best Use of Social/Collaborative Learning’ category.

Share this case study:

More case studies:

4 March 2021
How Fairtrade helps growers to build resilience to climate change
23 July 2020
A local approach to a global pandemic
18 December 2019
Demonstrating water stewardship excellence in Zambia
31 October 2019
The secret to making health and safety second nature for everyone - insight into Azucarera’s internationally recognised approach
1 March 2019
Protecting Magombera Nature Forest Reserve for generations to come
19 February 2019
Support services enhanced for South Africa’s small-scale sugar cane growers
29 August 2018
More crop per drop – AB Sugar’s approach to water stewardship
13 August 2018
Establishing land rights for growers in Mozambique – Illovo Sugar Africa
4 July 2018
More than sugar - AB Sugar’s Circular Economy
27 March 2018
Online food teaching course for primary school teachers
15 February 2018
Encouraging biodiversity at British Sugar
31 January 2018
Environmental leadership in the UK beet sugar industry
23 January 2018
Monitoring, reducing and re-using water in our operations
22 January 2018
Placing energy generation and efficiency at the heart of our business
9 March 2017
Building thriving communities through diversity – British Sugar and the WISE Campaign
27 January 2017
Recruiting the next generation
20 January 2017
Making Sense of Sugar online content reaches 1 million views
16 January 2017
Food education kits for primary schools
6 January 2017
Illovo – supporting rural communities in Africa through health services and education
6 January 2017
Connecting our people and building expertise across our businesses
4 January 2017
Transforming sugar harvesting and delivery through technology
16 December 2016
Protecting Land Rights in Illovo
12 December 2016
Embedding Sustainable Agriculture in China
7 December 2016
Supporting development in Africa
7 December 2016
Ensuring fair trade for farmers in southern Africa
30 November 2016
Pulp sun-drying project in Spain
30 November 2016
Using resources responsibly: minimising waste in China and the UK
11 November 2016
Supplying renewable energy to Swaziland’s National Grid
11 November 2016
Promoting better water management across our supply chain in Illovo, southern Africa.
more case studies >
AB Sugar China Azucarera British Sugar Germains Seed Technology Illovo Sugar Group Vivergo Fuelds