Florverde Sustainable Flowers didn’t begin as a certification; it began as a code of conduct for growers led by the Association of Colombian Flower Exporters (Asocolflores) 25 years ago. The guide evolved to certification, and this “local solution” towards sustainability is now internationally recognised in Colombian and Ecuadorian associations and is gaining interest in Chile, Costa Rica, and Mexico.
In the early 1990s, when the concepts of sustainable production and social responsibility were little heard of, the Colombian flower industry initiated a thorough self-examination to determine its social and environmental impact. Working together under the name ECOFLOR, nine flower-exporting companies developed a Code of Conduct closely considering soil and water management practices, waste disposal, integrated pest management, worker welfare and worker protection standards. In short, all aspects of flower production and ways to assess such practices. Performance indicators were developed specifically for Colombian conditions, best practices were identified, and the first flower “eco-label” was born.
This initiative soon caught the attention of a much wider circle of flower growers, and in 1996 ASOCOLFLORES launched its FLORVERDE® programme with the full support of ECOFLOR companies.
Twenty-five years later, FLORVERDE® has celebrated its silver anniversary with outstanding achievements. The virtual celebration convened by ASOCOLFLORES on February 24 2022, brought together nearly 150 participants, including the director of ECOFLOR, Juan Carlos Isaza, the first director of FLORVERDE, and Ximena Franco, who directed the programme for over 15 years.
“FLORVERDE created essential communication bridges between flower companies,” declared Isaza. “It standardised production practices, found ways to improve them continuously and facilitated adoption in flower farms.”
Franco said, “The advantages of certification soon became evident. In the first place, companies became more organised and efficient; but also, customers started preferring – and increasingly prefer – certified flowers, giving them guarantee of sustainable and responsible production.”
The official FLORVERDE standard was launched in 2002, and then in 2011, the standard underwent a thorough strategic re-haul and became FLORVERDE Sustainable Flowers®.
“FLORVERDE is the evolution of an idea that 25 years ago allowed our flower growers to respond to the reputational needs of international markets,” said Augusto Solano, president of ASOCOLFLORES. “What started as an internal code of conduct in 1996 became a second-party verification system in 2001 and then evolved into an independent, third-party certification system in 2007.”
FLORVERDE® works on the basis of benchmarking performance amongst its members, which guarantees continuous improvement. It has meant very substantial reductions in the use of agrichemicals. It is achieving 60 per cent of irrigation from collected rainwater and developing excellent waste management programmes, including plant waste that is efficiently turned into compost and used as organic fertiliser. More importantly, it offers stable jobs.
“FLORVERDE® is an excellent example of record-keeping, efficient and accountable production,” said Jeroen Oudheudsen, director of the Floriculture Sustainable Initiative (FSI), which brings together the international floriculture sector.
“Furthering work on our sustainability footprint, we are now working on our carbon-footprint indicator,” said Martha Lucía Méndez, current director of FLORVERDE®. “As we move forward into new markets and segments, we are reaching more medium and small producers, we are working on expanding our programme.”
Solano concluded, “FLORVERDE® has given the Colombian flower sector credibility, respect and recognition. It has turned into business culture by providing a superior business management tool.”
This article was first published in FloraCulture International in June 2022.