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Sustainability and eco-credentials in future markets

Research & Extension

APAL’s next webinar is on 17 June, where Tianna DuPont will speak about soil management and recent trials conducted in Washington State to manage replant decline.

Have you ever wondered what the environmental footprint of your orchard is? Or why should this even be of concern?

Over 60 growers, marketers and other industry personnel tuned in last week as APAL held the second installment of its highly successful webinar series last week: Eco-credentials and sustainability

Dr. Brent Clothier, Plant and Food Research NZ, emphasised the value of looking after ‘natural capital’ (inputs such as soil, water, sun) to ensure ecosystem services (eg. nutrient cycling, soil formation, climate regulation, disease and pest regulation) continue to be available to ensure food security, health, well-being and ultimately life on earth.

Brent noted that if our natural capital declines or degrades, effective ecosystem services may no longer be available.

Consumers are becoming more and more environmentally conscious, with environmental footprint consistently among the top consumer concerns in global retailers’ surveys.

Consequently, retailers are providing information to their customers about how sustainable certain items are compared to others.  Items that rate as ‘more green’ can attract a premium shelf space and a premium price in top retail outlets. Selling a product becomes about shelf access, not just market access – is your product getting onto the best shelves and attracting premium prices?

Retailers, as a result of consumer demands, have become the new regulators of natural capitalism. Supermarkets are playing a strong, leading role in terms of how products are being sold and how prices are being set.  Global companies such as Unilever, Walmart and Tesco have strategies in places to ensure their suppliers, and their products, are meeting sustainability targets and promoting more efficient use of inputs. Just last week APAL confirmed that all three major retailers in Australia have now agreed to Fair Farms Certification, which ensures supermarkets are adhering to ethical labour sourcing.

How are sustainable practices implemented at the production end?

One example is an initiative by the NZ wine industry that, almost 20 years ago, saw the rollout of an industry-wide sustainable winery certification program.  Sustainable Winegrowing NZ (SWNZ) was designed to provide a best practice model of environmental stewardship in the vineyard and winery and today 98 per cent of New Zealand’s vineyard producing area is SWNZ certified.

What is happening in Australia?

While Australia has long thrived on its ‘clean green’ image, how can businesses ensure that consumers trust that this continues? Into the future, there will be a need to verify this perception and demonstrate provenance – traceability will become vital.

Industry research and development body Hort Innovation is in the midst of developing a sustainability framework the Australian Sustainability Story for Australian horticulture. Hort During the webinar Hort Innovation General Manager of Extension and Adoption Dr Anthony Kachenko outlined the project and the newly-released ‘materiality’ assessment of priority areas which will inform industry discussions around goal setting and measurement for the new framework.

Anthony said the framework development would be aligned with the sustainability development goals set by the United Nations.

Anthony was quick to point out that the aim was not to develop a compliance tool, but to demonstrate that horticulture is taking ownership for sustainability going forward; to develop a framework for horticultural industries so that when ‘clean green’ claims are made they can be backed up with evidence. Anthony said some industries were already including sustainability as a core part of their business strategy.

Key to this is identifying where the industry should focus future efforts, particularly from a research perspective. The materiality assessment looked at issues that mattered most to both external stakeholders including consumers, customers and environmental groups, and industry, and found a high degree of overlap.  Six broad themes have been identified ranging from workplace safety, food safety, packaging and waste, to soil, water and nutrient management, climate and energy use.

The next step is to consult with peak industry bodies to ensure alignment of these themes and identify the key points to be included in the framework going forward.

Further information

What are the opportunities in assessing and adapting the environmental footprint of your business?

View the webinar: The APAL webinar series presentations are recorded and made available on the APAL website. View the Eco-credentials and sustainability webinar by clicking here.

Read more about the Hort Innovation Sustainability Framework

consumers Eco Credentials environment webinar

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