No future without sustainability

In my previous columns I spoke about new auctioning and virtualisation – this time I’d like to focus on sustainability. The companies of Dutch Flower Group have been working on this theme for many years; from internal projects dealing with energy, recycling and development programmes to larger, chain-wide projects that we worked on together with our growers and our customers. It was a logical step for us when we founded the Floriculture Sustainability Initiative (FSI) together with a few other organisations a couple of years ago.

FSI has since grown into an international platform to increase sustainability throughout the floricultural industry chain. This involves breeders, growers, trading companies, Royal FloraHolland, NGOs as well as certification authorities in the Netherlands, Africa and South America.

The collaboration on this chain-wide theme has led to various larger projects during the last couple of years and to a shared objective: reaching 90% sustainable sourcing by the year 2020. I’m pleased to see that, partly because of our efforts, Royal FloraHolland has started to play an active role in this by stimulating their growers to meet the quality and sustainability requirements of our customers.

And this no longer just concerns the intrinsic product quality of plants or cut flowers. There’s more and more attention for minimum requirements regarding environmental and social aspects as well. Crop protection, water usage and working conditions for example, are all important topics. And transparency is the key. In my opinion, the only way to ensure a transparent communication process is by certification throughout the chain.

FSI wants to establish a joint definition of sustainability and materialise this through specific chain projects and certifications. In this regard, the FSI project ‘Sustainable Yardstick’ has recently developed an interesting tool: the sustainable sourcing scan.

Trading companies can use this tool when they make their purchases, to determine whether growers adhere to the minimum standards outlined in the so-called ‘basket of standards’ – the set of minimum international certifications regarding environmental and social aspects.

DFG has been taking part in this project since the end of last year, which has given us a common task with Royal FloraHolland and other FSI members. The task consists of, jointly with growers and breeders, increasing the awareness of sustainability and meeting the minimum standards that have been established, mostly by the retail customers. The FSI’s ‘basket of standards’ provides us with the guidelines.

Considering the fact that targets are set for 2020, the time frame to implement changes throughout the entire chain is very tight. If we want to meet the objectives, the FSI sustainability platform will have to become more of a leading initiative at an international level and it will have to get all parties in the chain involved.

The question is no longer if, but when, the standards and requirements regarding sustainability are going to be regulated. And that’s why I’d like to use this column as an opportunity to call upon everyone in the chain to get actively involved, together with the trading companies and Royal FloraHolland, in activities regarding the theme of sustainability and the minimum certification standards. Hence my appeal: collaborate in the field of sustainability and the associated certifications. In the interest of both the Netherlands as a floricultural country and our shared future.

Marco van Zijverden,

CEO Dutch Flower Group