During the presentation of the ‘horticultural café’, the question whether sustainability is an opportunity or a threat to the sector was on everybody’s agenda. The meeting was held at Koppert Biological Systems in The Netherlands. The company has been active in biological crop control and sustainability in the greenhouse. "Even before sustainability was a household name, Koppert was already thinking about the exclusion of chemical pesticides," said Henri Oosthoek when introducing the topic.
According to Chiel van der Kooij, former grower and now quality manager at trading company Bocchi Flower Trade Netherlands, the sustainability requirements of the retail are partly motivated by the fear of reputational damage as a result of consumer programs. "The retail doesn’t want its image dented and will therefore avoid taking risks, regardless of the manufacture or supplier. That is why they make such high demands on producers and traders." This results in more attention to issues such as plant protection, water, energy and biodiversity.
Arie van den Berg
This story is confirmed by Arie van den Berg, although the flower grower has a different take on retail demands. “Sure, it happened to me,” he said. “My German buyers, all retailers, refused to take my roses out of fear for residue tests on consumer programs. But we decided to delve right into it and come up with a solution that was mutually beneficent.” Together with Rewe and Univeg he went to work to avoid situations like this and now he sees retail demands not as a threat but as an opportunity for his own company. "The collaboration has improved since.”
Jos Looije of Looije Tomatoes disagreed. “Concepts like sustainability and corporate social responsibility are generally abused,” he said. “Our entire industry has been working sustainably. With minimal resources, we have been producing as much as possible. Thanks to the retail, we are professionalized and market-oriented, but to the retailers it’s just never enough.”