Certified Sustainability

We have seen the word everywhere. Sustainability, in its many forms, is at the grocery store, being driven by the big boxes and in the consumer press. But what exactly does the word mean? Can a grower who has adopted energy alternatives rightly market his crops as sustainable? What about the grower who sells his plants in biodegradable pots? Does a grower have to go organic to be considered sustainable or is reducing chemicals enough?

This is where Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) comes in. The organization is an independent certifier of environmental, sustainability, food quality and food purity claims, and runs a certification program called VeriFlora that emphasizes sustainability standards. Now available for the potted plants sector in the U.S. ornamental industry, VeriFlora is gaining ground with interest from growers, retailers, wholesalers and other distributors. And with sustainable practices becoming more important to consumers and a priority in many industries, proponents of sustainability certification are encouraging growers to take a hard look at their own production practices.

The idea behind setting a sustainability standard is to provide one clear definition to the industry so everyone is on the same page, says Linda Brown, SCS executive vice president.

“Having that will help to ensure that when people use the term sustainability to define their practices and products, that they are using the same meaning,” she says. “It will also have international ramifications because it will make sure that anybody making a sustainability claim on products sold in this country are being held to the same standard.”

Defining Sustainability

So what is VeriFlora all about? Aside from using crop production practices that build soil fertility and control pests without the use of chemicals, such as practices found in organic production, the program also emphasizes wildlife protection; energy and water efficiency; reductions in greenhouse gases and wastes; and fair labor practices, among other facets (see “Elements Of Sustainability”). VeriFlora is the first sustainability program for cut flowers and potted plants that addresses all of these areas.

“In the past three years, VeriFlora has grown exponentially in the cut flower sector, from about 18 million stems to more than 750 million stems this year,” Brown says. “We are now beginning to see a surge in interest in the potted plant sector, fueled in part by growing retailer interest in sustainably grown products. As awareness of VeriFlora grows and general interest in sustainability grows, we expect a large segment of the industry to adopt sustainability practices and seek certification.”

While recognizing organic growers as the top tier in sustainable production, VeriFlora also requires conventional growers to develop a plan for converting to organic pest management and soil fertility practices over time. It also covers three other areas beyond organic practices: environmental and social responsibility and product quality.

“Sustainability is a larger umbrella than organic, and organic is contained within the scope of sustainability, but not the other way around,” Brown says. “So ultimately sustainability is the direction of the future. That’s why we need a comprehensive standard that takes all of these issues under one framework, and organic practices will thrive under a sustainability framework rather than being shoveled off to being something opposite.”

Getting Started

Growers interested in the VeriFlora certification start by filling out an application, which is available at www.veriflora.com. The initial process involves entering into a certification agreement, including confidentiality. Next, the applicant completes the Self-Assessment Checklist, a crucial step of the entire certification effort. The Self-Assessment Checklist helps growers identify areas in their businesses that need attention, Brown says.

“The checklist is really an educational tool inasmuch as it’s part of a certification process, because it shows people these are the things you need to pay attention to if you want to move toward a sustainable marketing claim.”

SCS reviews the grower’s Self-Assessment Checklist once submitted, and based on the review, determines whether the grower is ready to move toward certification on Track 2 or whether the grower needs to go through the set-up phase in Track 1.

“Depending on the readiness of the grower or handler, the timeframe for sustainability is two to six months,” Brown says. “Two months if sustainability practices are in place, six months or more if sustainability practices are not well documented or if corrective actions are required.”

Track 1 follows a set of steps specific to the individual grower, depending on the policies or practices the grower may need to write or implement. For example, a grower may not have a written policy on harassment in the workplace, a subject under the fair labor practices element. The grower would then need to draft and enact such a policy to move forward with certification.

For areas in which a grower needs assessment, SCS and the applicant together identify areas that are deficient to certification standards and a plan to correct these areas in current practices and procedures. SCS works with applicants to help them establish new practices, procedures and policy documents, and provides any necessary information. The organization will also visit growers on-site to provide training to key personnel and help managers develop written procedures and documentation.

“Achieving Track 1 sustainability is an incremental process, whereby a company tackles one issue at a time in a manner that is most cost effective and practical for its operations,” Brown says.

After all areas identified as needing attention are completed, the applicant submits an updated Self-Assessment Checklist and if approved, moves on to Track 2 toward certification.

In Track 2, SCS conducts an on-site inspection in which the auditor reviews documents, gathers evidence and interviews employees, and prepares an Audit Report that identifies any major or minor Corrective Action Requirements (CARs). Once CARs are completed, SCS reviews the grower’s steps to do so. Finally the SCS Certification Committee evaluates the applicant’s actions and policies and decides whether to issue a new certification, extend an existing certification or deny, suspend or revoke an existing certification, as the case may be.

“If this is an initial audit, CARs are identified. A major CAR must be corrected before certification can be granted, while a minor CAR generally must be implemented within a defined timeframe,” Brown says. “If this is a certification renewal inspection and major CARs are identified, then a certification may be suspended or revoked, unless immediate corrective action is undertaken.”

Generating Interest And Awareness

So far, one potted plant grower has become VeriFlora certified in the United States, Ball Tagawa in Arroyo Grande, Calif. The operation, a joint venture between Ball Horticultural Co. and Tagawa Greenhouses of Colorado that produces young plants for wholesale growers, was certified this past summer, following Ball’s lead. Ball Horticultural Co. has become certified sustainable, farm by farm, in each of the countries where it owns production operations, through VeriFlora in the United States and other similar sustainability certification programs worldwide, says Bill Doeckel, general manager of Ball Innovations, who is heading up many of the company’s efforts on sustainability. Ball has already been a big influence in the industry-wide sustainability movement.

“One of our goals as a company is to promote sustainability and to get more growers producing sustainably,” Doeckel says. “Certification does require a commitment on behalf of the grower. You have to decide what is important to you as a business. We think it’s important for the industry to move in that direction and that is why we have spent time volunteering on these different committees to move the effort forward.”

Currently, 13 growers in South America with a total of 32 farms are either certified or soon to be certified by VeriFlora. In the United States, six growers and a total of 18 farms are certified or soon to be certified, including industry leaders Sun Valley Group and B&H Flowers. In addition, certified handlers include three of the largest floral distributors in North America – Delaware Valley Floral Group, Savoir Fleur and Sierra Flower Trading, Ltd.

The newly forming VeriFlora Sustainability Council is an organization that will aim to promote the VeriFlora brand in the marketplace and educate the industry and consumer public about what it means to be sustainable and the importance of sustainable agriculture practices. Annie Gardiner, the council’s executive director, says the organization is looking to formalize its structure in the next 60 days.
“We are constituting ourselves as a legal entity and putting a membership structure in place and at the same time starting some of our mission-driven activities,” she says.

In addition to promotion and education, the council will provide certified members with support around their VeriFlora certified product and train them to talk to buyers about it, as well as work with retailers to set up appropriate merchandising to draw their customers’ interest in sustainable products. The council will also work to train retail sales staffs to sell VeriFlora certified product.

“There is a VeriFlora merchandising program so plants can be marketed at retail,” Gardiner says. “We also have the consumer Web site, www.veriflora.com, and are aggressively targeting the consumer press to get that pull through.”

The Future Of Sustainable Agriculture

Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) is working to take the tenets of VeriFlora to the next level by turning sustainable agriculture practices into a national standard through the American National Standard Institute (ANSI). At press time SCS was conducting open meetings in the San Francisco Bay area to glean interest and support for the Sustainable Agriculture Practice Draft National Standard for Trial Use.

 
“The draft standard was developed by SCS in consultation with numerous stakeholders and represents a compilation of some of the most important documents that have been developed on environmentally and socially responsible practices in agriculture, with extensive stakeholder input,” says Linda Brown, SCS executive vice president.
 
Another set of meetings will be held in the Midwest in early 2008.
 
“The substance of the meetings is to introduce the draft standard for trial use in the American National Standard Institute process that will allow this standard to be converted into a national standard,” Brown says. “We want to engage and include stakeholders from various industries and organizations and environmental groups that have an interest and want to be part of the process of creating a national standard.”
 
While SCS does not have a set goal in terms of numbers of grower operations it would like to certify in sustainable production in the coming years, it does have other goals in mind and ideas of what kind of environmental impact its goals would have.
 
“We are clearly interested in converting hectares of land to sustainable production,” Brown says. “Sustainable agricultural techniques compliant with the standard will have the effect of reducing carbon released from soil into the atmosphere. If we can achieve conversion of 75 to 100 million hectares of land to sustainable agriculture practices in conformance with the standard, we believe that will result in eliminating carbon storage of 8 billion tons of carbon dioxide."
 
For more information on attending meetings to support the Draft National Standard for Trial Use, contact ddulmage@scscertified.com or visit www.scscertified.com.
Topics:

Leave a Reply

More From Uncategorized...

April 17, 2015

Sakata Seed Uses California Spring Trials Display Plants To Give Back

Sakata Seed America is putting its post-CAST (California Spring Trials) plants and flowers to good use to support events in local California communities of Salinas and Morgan Hill. The plants, along with donations through Sakata's Charitable Giving Program, will support three fun-filled community events that promote healthy lifestyles and support the agricultural industry.

Read More
Hakonochloa macra Aureola v

April 17, 2015

Ornamental Grasses — A Few Thoughts

Grasses have been embraced by growers, landscape architects and retailers, and are an important component in wholesale and resale sales. Allan Armitage shares some popular grasses, one to avoid and a few to use with caution.

Read More
PW_CAST15

April 17, 2015

Allan Armitage’s Favorite Plants From Proven Winners, Syngenta And Danziger

Between visiting California Spring Trial giants like Proven Winners, Syngenta and Danziger, Allan Armitage saw a lot of great plants in one day. Despite the size of the challenge, Dr. Armitage finds a few favorites he thinks you should try.

Read More
Latest Stories

March 31, 2015

Manufacturers Are Taking Biologicals To The Next Level

Through acquisitions and new products, many crop protection companies are making firm commitments to the future of the biocontrols industry.

Read More
Aquaponics At Brogue Hydroponics

March 30, 2015

Aquaponics Is Making A Splash At Brogue Hydroponics

The owners of Brogue Hydroponics explain why they expanded into aquaponics, and how the shift has helped them uncover a new market opportunity.

Read More

February 11, 2015

Benchmarks: Find Your Game-Changer

Refuse to accept the status quo in your organization. Explore possibilities until you find what works best for your company.

Read More
Lychnis 'Petitie Jenny'

February 2, 2015

Variety Showcase: A Dainty Debutante

Lychnis flos-cuculi ‘Petite Jenny’ is a dwarf form of the popular Blooms of Bressingham® variety Lychnis ‘Jenny.’ This double-flowered little beauty was discovered by Paul Gooderham at Bressingham in a patch of its parent, ‘Jenny.’ ‘Petite Jenny’ produces masses of large, fluffy, double flowers like ‘Jenny,’ but with a more diminutive habit. The species goes by the common name “ragged robin,” but there’s nothing unkempt about ‘Petite Jenny’. An easy-to-grow, tidy little plant, it is suitable for any sunny or lightly shaded border and is also a good container candidate. Garden Performance Mass of bright pink double blooms beginning in mid-May. Sterile blooms provide a longer flowering period Erect, leafy flowering stems Forms compact, bushy clumps just 14” tall with an 18” spread Attracts bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and is deer-resistant Ideal for containers, front of borders, informal cottage gardens and as cut flowers’ Sun or part shade USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to […]

Read More

January 20, 2015

Register Now For Biocontrols 2015 Conference & Trad…

The first-ever conference, sponsored by Meister Media Worldwide and the Biopesticide Industry Alliance, March 3-5, offers hands-on, real-world technical advice on biocontrols to help you craft a “softer” pest management program focused on resistance management, MRLs and results.

Read More

October 6, 2014

Fighting Fall Foliar Disease: The Best Defense Is A Goo…

Managing foliar diseases starts with evaluating the greenhouse environment. Virginia Brubaker, GGS Pro Technical support supervisor for Griffin Greenhouse Supplies, shares some ways you can defend against fall foliar diseases.

Read More

July 11, 2014

Highlights From The 2013 USDA Floriculture Crops Summar…

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its 2013 Floriculture Crops Summary in June. Here are some of the main findings.

Read More

June 16, 2014

Pine Wood Chips As An Alternative To Perlite In Greenho…

This is the third article of the four article series highlighting the production and use of pine wood chips as aggregates in greenhouse substrates. We found growers do not need to adjust their production practices when 20% pine wood chips are utilized as a perlite replacement.

Read More

June 4, 2014

Hortilux To Service Philips Indal Supplemental Lighting…

Hortilux Schréder (Hortilux) will be undertaking the warranty and service work for existing Philips Indal supplemental lighting systems for greenhouse horticulture. To deliver this service, Hortilux is taking over the entire stock of parts and production tools from Philips Indal Horticulture, so Hortilux is able to provide the full range of service and maintenance on these supplemental lighting systems, even after they are no longer covered by warranty. In North America, this will fall under the domain of PL Light Systems Canada Inc., a division of Dool Industries and a sister-company of Hortilux. In North America, PL Light Systems will contact the existing Philips Indal horticultural clients and work with them to quantify their service and maintenance needs. PL Light Systems offers a wide range of service and maintenance services, including on site supplemental lighting measurements, lamp and reflector measurements, trouble-shooting and repair maintenance and automated reflector cleaning services. These […]

Read More

May 29, 2014

Country Raisin’s Joins HGTV HOME Plant Collection…

The HGTV HOME Plant Collection announced Country Raisin's as a new annuals grower for 2014.

Read More

April 24, 2014

ePlantSource Announces Five New Partnerships

ePlantSource has announced the addition of five new suppliers to the list of partner companies who provide their products on ePlantSource.com. The additional partners will offer customers new products as well as expanded options for programs and locations.

Read More

April 16, 2014

Update: House Approves Bill To Raise ACA Full-Time Defi…

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation on April 3 that would raise the definition of full-time employment under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to 40 hours per week.

Read More

March 27, 2014

Amidst Drought, Solar Desalination Allows California Wa…

California's Panoche Water District has implemented a solar desalination facility in response to the need for cost-effective solutions that would ensure the availability of sustainable water in the vital agricultural region. The facility, located in Firebaugh, Calif., utilizes renewable desalination technology from WaterFX.

Read More

March 14, 2014

Adaptive Plastics Announces Laurie Stribling Will Move …

Adaptive Plastics, Inc. has announced the promotion of Laurie Stribling to a newly created outside sales position. In her new position, Stribling will drive sales of Solexx greenhouse covering to commercial greenhouse and nursery growers.

Read More

March 14, 2014

BASF Empress Intrinsic Brand Fungicide Approved For Use…

BASF Empress Intrinsic brand fungicide has received supplemental labeling from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use on herbaceous and woody plants in greenhouse, nursery container and field production in New York.

Read More
Nicotiana 'Starlight Avatar' from Bioglow is the world's first light-producing plant.

January 31, 2014

Auction For ‘Starlight Avatar’ Went Live To…

BioGlow's auction went live on January 31 for nicotiana 'Starlight Avatar,' the world's first light producing plant.

Read More

January 29, 2014

U.S. Farm Bill Passed In The House After Years Of Indus…

The Farm Bill passed in the House of Representatives on January 29, and could be voted on as early as January 30 in the Senate.

Read More

January 2, 2014

MSU To Host 2014 Independent Plant Breeders Conference,…

If you want an opportunity to learn from and network with other plant breeders, new product development and market gurus and intellectual property experts, consider attending the 2014 Independent Plant Breeders Conference, October 30 to November 2, 2014. Held at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids, Mich., educational sessions will fill the first two days, focused on helping independent breeders be successful, from technical aspects of breeding through product development and marketing. The final day will include tours of Western Michigan nurseries, garden centers and horticultural landmarks. Sessions will cover topics including: Basic and advanced plant breeding techniques Managing a breeding program Bringing selections to market Intellectual property management Market trends A formal agenda, list of sessions and registration details will be released in the spring. Meanwhile, if you have questions, contact Michigan State University’s Ryan Warner. Find information on hotel accommodations here. Independent Plant Breeders & Students of […]

Read More