On 23rd January, alongside IPM Essen in Germany, AIPH proudly announced the winners of our annual International Grower of the Year Awards 2018.  Representatives from twenty different countries attended the gala dinner which turned out to be a great night of celebration.

The overall winner was Ter Laak Orchids from The Netherlands and this business also went home with the trophy for our new category; Sustainability.  Undoubtedly, sustainability is an important focus for growers just now, at least it is for those actively involved in the retail supply chain within Europe.  And yet, the term is not really very clear!  If you asked a group of businesses which of them would not want to have a sustainable business I suspect you would be greeted by silence!  In one sense it is obvious that you want your business to be sustainable.  At its basic level Google will tell you that it means ‘the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level’ and who wouldn’t want that?

Continuing to make more profit is the basis for a sustainable business but such a business will be focused on how it will make its profits next year but also in the next ten or twenty years.  For that you have to prepare for a whole host of other factors.  Over this time period having a business with minimal environmental impact will not be an option, it will be a requirement; the need to support skills and other needs of workers will be essential for maintaining productivity; ensuring sustainable practice through your supply chain will be critical as one weak link in the chain could cause major damage to your business.

With the help of projects like the Floriculture Sustainability Initiative (FSI) the definition of sustainable for our sector is clearer to understand.  FSI members are working towards having 90% of their flowers and plants responsibly sourced and traded by 2020.  Certification through GlobalGap, MPS or other national-based schemes also enables growers to see the direction they need to move.

It is not the case that the industry in every country sees the same importance in this but that is changing.  Growers need to constantly be researching what sustainability means to them, what they need to change, we all need to try out new practices and make some bold decisions.

We all want sustainable businesses and a sustainable industry but this will only happen if we all take note of companies like Ter Laak Orchids and embed a sustainable ethos in all we do.