Sustainability – Part II

I need to be honest right now–I didn’t think the sustainability trend would last this long. In business, as many of you have told us, the most important thing is sustaining profits, which isn’t always in line with the more expensive up-front costs of the techniques that make greenhouse production sustainable. But you still haven’t given up on it, and I’m glad you haven’t.

From the conversations I heard at Short Course, you may be deeper in sustainability than ever. What I like is that so many of you are doing it your own way and taking what you need from sustainability. In the South, you’re looking at water conservation. All over you’re looking at keeping your employees safer with low or no REI products. And if you’re ready, you’re looking at being called “quantifiably sustainable” by several certification organizations out there.

At the Short Course Grower Town Hall meeting, I was hearing phrases like “economically sustainable” and “good stewards” that lead me to believe this movement isn’t going anywhere. Growers realize that, of course, profits mean they stay in business. But listening to your customers can also mean you’ll stick around longer than the next guy. Some larger growers are looking forward to partnering with large retailers on projects that will really make a difference in the environment–and you’d better believe they’ll make a profit on it, or they wouldn’t be doing it. The big retailers want new ideas on new sustainable programs, even though we’re three years or more into this trend. That’s a pretty good indicator that consumers are going to be interested, as well.

“Wal-Mart has a long way to go, but they’re taking this thing seriously,” one town hall attendee said.

Tell Someone

You’ve cut back on chemicals or switched to a biodegradable pot. Now you just have to tell someone. Even if you’re not certified, tell your retailers and consumers what you are doing.

“Nobody sprays on Friday just ’cause it’s Friday anymore,” another town hall attendee said. And there is value in telling the consumer that, along with your story about the biodegradable materials and growing methods you’re using.

If you’re making an effort to be sustainable, why isn’t the consumer getting that message? As a younger consumer, I’ll tell you that I’d pay more for a product that’s grown in a more socially conscious way, and I’m not the only one. I just don’t know which of you are doing it. It’s built-in branding on a trend that couldn’t be hotter.

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