"Certification is a means, but not an end goal"

Floriculture Sustainability Initiative (FSI) is an international foundation based in Brussels. At the foundation established in 2013, approximately 50 market parties and civil society organizations work together to make the floriculture sector more sustainable. Program manager FSI Jeroen Oudheusden shares his vision: "Sustainability is a precondition for existence. It must be anchored in every organization's strategy."

The aim of the FSI is to ensure that the international sector produces and markets 90% of all flowers and plants sustainably by 2020. "We have now passed the halfway mark. This goes faster with plants than it does with flowers." 

Making sustainable supply more transparent
Jeroen has noticed an acceleration in the number of certified growers. "That's great, but traders and retailers have to act as well. They must purchase sustainably. And the 90% ambition applies to Royal FloraHolland as well. It is very good that the auction is making the sustainable supply more transparent by adding the right information to products and making them traceable in the supply systems. In this way, growers can distinguish themselves and the trade can buy sustainable products in an efficient manner. And certified supply should eventually be a basic condition for offering at any given marketplace." 

Working together as a network
In addition to making certificates transparent and comparing them, FSI is also engaged with other themes to make the sector more sustainable. Examples include water purification, international projects for organic crop protection, working conditions and human rights. "We work together as a network and share our information. What we learn in one country, we share in the other country. Growers do not have to be a member of FSI to make use of our knowledge. I would prefer growers to invest money and energy into sustainability and consulting FSI members." 

First positive step
Working sustainably is not, in the first instance, about certification. "The objective is for the process to be sustainable and to lead to a sustainable product. You can guarantee that with certification. In addition, reliable cultivation registration is important. If you have this in order, you are already on the way to a more sustainable process. You will then see where there is room for improvement. Many growers are already accustomed to that. My advice to growers who do not yet do so is to start with that today. Try to include good growers' practices and market demand. Set achievable goals and show the market which initiatives you are undertaking to increase sustainability. FSI members want more transparency in making the sector more sustainable. Certification is a means, certainly not an end goal. It does not solve all sustainability issues, but it is a good first step. I believe it's important that organizations think about how they can pass the planet on to future generations in slightly better shape with attention to the three P's: people, profit, planet." 

Basket of Standards
The FSI 'Basket of Standards' offers an overview of the international certificates in different categories: social, sustainable or a combination. The requirements for the various certifications develop along with the legislation, good agricultural practice and market requirements. FSI is going to split the 'environmental component' into environmental and good agricultural practices, both of which have to be clearly explained with (cultivation) registration. The new set-up also provides space for specific environmental labels such as MPS-ABC and PlanetProof. 

Every grower is responsible
Jeroen believes that every grower is responsible for the sector's success. "If a product group deliberately does nothing in terms of sustainability, the market will seek alternatives for those products, and the entire market may suffer. Producers who do nothing call their right to exist into question. Working sustainably does not only apply to growers, but also to traders. Do not just purchase sustainably, but also look at packaging and transport. The footprint of the entire chain is becoming more important." Even after 2020, FSI will continue to encourage the sector to work sustainably. "We are already in discussion with our members about our plans after 2020. That year is not an end point, but a stop on the road to sustainability. This is an ongoing process. We continue to insist on a reliable cultivation registration because as a grower you have to be increasingly accountable with regard to your cultivation. You must ensure that you are transparent and reliable. That is and will remain the basis for the wonderful stories generated by sustainable business. That's a huge opportunity, which we must take advantage of together!"

Source: Royal FloraHolland

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