Sustainability high on the agenda for Belgian strawberry growers

Ahead of the 4th International Strawberry Congress in Antwerp, this September, Jan Engelen of Coöperatie Hoogstraten explains why fortifying ESG approaches is vital to the health of the industry.

Sustainability is an issue that is clearly a growing influencer on consumer purchase decisions. In fact, The IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) recently conducted a survey of 16,000 global consumers and found that more than half (51 percent) of respondents say environmental sustainability is more important to them today than it was 12 months ago. The survey also found that consumers’ actions were starting to match their intent, with 49 percent of consumers saying they’ve paid a premium—an average of 59 percent more—for products branded as sustainable or socially responsible in the last 12 months.

However, as consumers become more conscious about the environmental impact of the food they consume, for producers, sustainability must apply more widely than what is happening in the field or greenhouse; it must be a touchstone in every business process from packaging to supply chain. It is an approach that is high on the agenda for leading Belgium strawberry co-op Hoogstraten, home to over 200 unique producers, united in their collective mission to create a sustainable future for the fruit and vegetable sector through integrity, involvement, connection, growth, and horizon.

It goes without saying that all our growers are GlobalGAP and GRASP-certified. Integrated pest management is at the heart of our approach to production. We have been working for a long time within the sustainable development goals (SDG) framework, and our corporate social responsibility is shaped by it. Looking to the future, we are reviewing our targets together with our different stakeholders. For example, we are working with our carton provider to evaluate the impact of the switch from the former rPET punnet to a carton and collaborating to see how we can further reduce our environmental impact throughout the chain.

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