Reducing environmental impact in the flowers sector

With increasing attention on the impacts of agrochemical use in the global production of flowers, and broader market demands for improved environmental practices, the Floriculture Sustainability Initiative (FSI) is taking next steps and has launched a two-pronged approach:

Driving the adoption of a standardized agrochemical record-keeping approach and supporting the development of an environmental impact indicator, and updating the FSI Basket of Standards to include environmental benchmarking criteria.

FSI, part of the IDH Fresh and Ingredients program, convenes the industry around improved production practices, with regards to both social and environmental perspectives. The FSI currently has 45 organizations aligned behind commitments to increasing the volume of sustainably sourced flowers and plants. To fulfil its role in driving sector transformation, FSI needs to continually improve and adapt its approach.

Agrochemical record-keeping and environmental impact indicator

The application of agrochemicals can have a direct impact on the local production environment, but also on human health in the application process and through resulting residues in the handling of cut flowers. Although the industry has taken positive steps towards more responsible agrochemical management, the absence of accepted norms and policies is leading to divergent requirements across the flowers industry.

The conventional approach by retailers and compliance standards to reducing the impacts of agrochemical usage has been a list-based, exclusionary approach (for example, the publishing of lists of prohibited active ingredients). However, a list-based approach may not necessarily lead to a reduced environmental impact: the higher volume use of a less toxic agrochemical may result in a greater negative environmental impact than the lower and more isolated use of a more toxic agrochemical.

The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach is a holistic way to reducing the environmental impact of agrochemicals. As the active ingredients of different agrochemicals have varying half-life, persistence and toxicity properties, the key to assessing the holistic impact of agrochemicals will be through a credible environmental impact indicator. However, the effectiveness of an impact indicator will be data-dependent: driving the adoption of a reliable and standardized record keeping methodology is a necessary first step towards incentivizing an IPM approach.

FSI is currently engaging industry players, including the social and environmental compliance standards, to introduce a reliable record keeping methodology, and to align the interests of these players to ensure that the methodology is standardized and widely adopted.

At the same time, supported by IDH, FSI is also engaging with key stakeholders to stimulate the development of an international environmental impact indicator for agrochemicals that can be used as a reference by the sector in the future.

Updating the FSI Basket of Standards

The FSI Basket of Standards includes a set of 14 benchmarked sustainability compliance standards. The purpose behind the benchmarking of these standards is to reduce audit duplication and costs for producers, to serve as a verified and independent reference for responsible sourcing that can be used by players within the floriculture sector, and for the FSI members that are reporting on the volumes of sustainably sourced flowers and plants.

By using the Basket as a reference, traders and buyers can identify suppliers that have adopted responsible practices, helping actors within flower supply chains to produce, trade and buy more responsibly produced flowers. The 14 standards have been benchmarked against criteria relating to responsible agricultural practices through Global GAP, and against criteria relating to responsible social practices through the Global Social Compliance Program (GSCP) of the Consumer Goods Forum.

With increasing attention on the impacts of agrochemical use in the global production of flowers, and broader market demands for improved environmental practices, the FSI benchmarking criteria have been updated.

The additional environmental criteria include water, agrochemicals, fertilizers and energy use, and soil and biodiversity conservation.

While these environmental criteria will be gradually defined and phased in over time up to end-2020, FSI would like to stimulate a sector shift as soon as possible. As such, the FSI Basket of Standards will reflect all three dimensions (social, agricultural and environmental) with immediate effect.

For the compliance standards, it will be possible to specialize in one of the three dimensions, or to integrate two or three of the dimensions into their respective standards. The introduction of the environmental dimension will also provide more advanced growers with the opportunity to improve their standing under the FSI.

By end-2020, responsible production under the FSI will be defined according to the benchmarks on agricultural, social and environmental practices. Growers can demonstrate good practice with one or more certifications covering the three dimensions.

Through this additional environmental dimension, the planned development of the standardized record-keeping methodology and a credible environmental impact indicator, FSI aims to support the transformation of the sector.