Why MPS Sustainability Certification Is Worth the Work for Perennial Growers
MPS (More Profitable Sustainability) certification is a way for growers to provide tangible proof to their customers, through third-party verification, that they are a sustainable company that cares about the environment. Achieving this certification can be challenging for perennial growers, due to the diversity of the plant material they use. Nevertheless, Casertano’s Greenhouse & Farms in Cheshire, CT, took on the challenge.
Casertano’s supplies retail garden centers with annuals, perennials, winter holiday items, and groundcovers. It was already making strides to become a greener company, yet it struggled with how to hold itself accountable for its efforts. The MPS-ABC certification provided that accountability.
President John Casertano says getting group buy-in from his staff was key to the success of this initiative, along with assigning one person to be in charge of collecting the monthly recording data. He is proud of the way his team came together to achieve an MPS-A rating its first time out.
Perennials Growers Encounter Roadblocks Annuals Growers Don’t
Despite the good rating, Casertano’s path to certification hasn’t been without its bumps.
“Perennials growers have a diverse inventory and carry stock year-round that they grow in many different environments,” Casertano says. “There are no clean breaks in seasonality, meaning there is no distinct end to production. Monitoring all of that requires a different view and more active involvement in space utilization because their space does not lie fallow.”
Perennials growers often work with a number of different genera, which creates another obstacle. A labor-intensive crop placed next to a crop that requires less work can make it tricky to record accurately.
Growers also deal with material from lots of different sources and finding MPS-certified material, for which a grower will get bonus points, can be a challenge. For growers who propagate their own stock, there is a layer of recording and a level of accuracy they must comprehend before undertaking the effort. Finally, calculating water use can be difficult because much of the growing occurs outside.
Efforts to Certify Yield Results
Despite the challenges, John says the efforts to certify have paid off. MPS furnishes Casertano’s with a platform to hold itself accountable for its sustainability efforts and measure itself against its own performance, as well as the industry’s performance as a whole.
“This has helped us push the bar higher, and that has been a gamechanger for us,” John says. “I can’t impress enough that this type of green initiative is difficult to execute without some third-party objective feedback. MPS provides that in a way that isn’t too regulatory or promotional.”
Casertano’s also made it clear to its suppliers from the start that part of its evaluation process would include not only getting the best price possible but also knowing where its suppliers source their material from and what practices they use.
“It was remarkable how quickly people took an interest in trying to provide us with the information we needed,” John says. “The environment is competitive enough that they saw an advantage in coming to us with clean material, and I think that will continue.”
From the sales side, MPS is the avenue that allows Casertano’s customers some visibility into its practices. MPS certification hasn’t increased Casertano’s sales; rather, it has strengthened partnerships with its customers and other companies, says Director of Sales Mike Joy.
“Ultimately, we need our end consumers to feel good about where they are getting their product,” Joy says. “There’s a competitive advantage to getting certified as proof of our commitment to the environment and our customers.”
Frequently Asked Questions About MPS
MPS General International Coordinator for North & Central America, Arthij van der Veer, addresses some common questions asked about MPS.
What is MPS?
MPS (More Profitable Sustainability) develops and manages sustainability certificates for the international flowers and ornamentals industry and conducts certification through its sister organization MPS-ECAS. The MPS-ABC certificate is recognized around the world as the international standard.
How does MPS-ABC certification work?
A participant who signs up registers specific data points in the My-MPS system for a period of one year.* Every four weeks, companies must register the use of crop protection agents, fertilizers, energy, and water into the system. After a year of data collection and an official audit, participants receive an MPS A+, MPS-A, MPS-B, or MPS-C qualification.
*All data entered into the system is confidential and cannot be shared with any third party.
Growers receive an audit after their first year to verify that the data registered in the My-MPS system corresponds with their purchased quantities. An inspection of the production area and facility also take place during this audit. Once results are verified, the Certification Body issues an initial qualification of the grower’s level of achievement based on the following scoring system.
MPS A+ – Participant must score higher than 90 total points and greater than 75% score in each of the following categories: energy, crop protection, and fertilizer.
MPS-A – Participant must score between 70 and 110 points
MPS-B – Participant must score between 55 and 69.9 points
MPS-C – Participant must score between 10 and 54.9 points
After the initial certification, MPS issues quarterly qualification reports. As part of the verification process, regular audits and/or residue tests are performed. These audits verify that the grower is continuing to operate at its current certification level or improving.
Independent certification is important for a grower as it gives third-party credibility that a business is operating in a sustainable way. More retailers are also formulating policies on use of specific active ingredients. The MPS-ABC certification helps a grower prove that he or she is complying with these policies.
For more information on MPS please visit www.my-mps.com.
*All data entered into the system is confidential and cannot be shared with any third party without approval from the customer.