LANSINGERLAND, Netherlands: “The planet is asking for it. We want it. And our clients are requesting it. That’s why Dutch-based plant wholesaler Royal Lemkes is working on sustainability issues,” says Managing Director Michiel de Haan.
Royal Lemkes is a large, Dutch wholesale company, specializing in plant sales to sizable European retailers. Michiel de Haan and Elise Wieringa (Quality Assurance & Sustainability) told us how their company approaches sustainability.
“Some twenty Royal Lemkes employees from a cross section of the organisation looked at the issue of sustainability. We decided that our impetus should be what we want to achieve as a company, what our customers want and what the planet needs. So we formulated six themes. Three of them, climate, raw materials and biodiversity, are ecologically-oriented. The other three, well-being/health/society, labour conditions in the supply chain and our own employees, are people-oriented.”
Loyal to our roots
“Royal Lemkes has a green heart with three ingredients: a grower’s history since 1882, lots of knowledge about plants and a sustainable heart. For our current owner, Cees van der Meij, and his predecessor, Hans Lemkes, sustainability is not just a word, it has always been a conviction. So we do not strive for maximum profits but rather sufficient profit to keep our company running and innovative. The impact of what we do for our employees, our customers and the planet is at least as important as our profit. This is who we are. Thus, our slogan is ‘Let’s plantify ® the future. Together.’
We believe in plants because they brighten up lives, strengthen the business of our trading partners and contribute to a sustainable world. Therefore, we feel privileged to work in this industry.”
Faster than the slowest one
“We believe in cooperation and we also believe in leadership. If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. But going with the entire group gets us nowhere. So we create coalitions, for example with fellow wholesale companies Dutch Flower Group, Waterdrinker and FleuraMetz and with Royal FloraHolland. This collaboration helps us go faster. Together we have enough weight and ambition to get things going. We have signed a Manifesto to speed up the industry’s sustainability policy and organized sessions for growers in which we inspired and informed them, offered our help and asked for their commitment. We also participate in the Floriculture Sustainability Initiative (FSI). In 2020, FSI wants 90% of all flowers and plants to come from reliable sources. This means they have a certificate from the FSI basket of standards (GAP or equal, supplemented for producers from high-risk countries in Africa and Latin America with a social compliance certificate).
Sometimes plans do not actualize so it falls on ethical entrepreneurs to be transparent about this. Sometimes you cannot get things done on your own so you need to ask for help: from customers, suppliers, government agencies or NGO’s focussed on environmental or labour issues . We consider them partners, not enemies. They keep us on our toes. Sometimes we use their knowledge, sometimes they use ours. But in the end, we have the same objectives.”
A normal planning cycle
“We did what any decent company does during a planning cycle: define the goals of all sustainability themes (for 2020), define plans and monitor our achievements. On the basis of our beliefs, we try to stimulate our customers to act sustainably and many of our customers stimulate us, as well. We have the privilege of supplying major European retailers such as IKEA, KingFisher and Aldi, who want to be frontrunners in sustainability. This is incredibly cool because we combine our push with their pull.”
Green Parc Energy, sustainability in practice
A very practical example of Royal Lemkes’ sustainability policy is apparent in Green Parc Energy. The roof of the Bleiswijk Royal Lemkes building is full of solar panels, generating electricity. The energy that is not used is stored in a huge battery next to the building. Employees can buy this electricity thus lowering their personal carbon footprint. To date, almost 50 of the 180 employees have signed up for this initiative.