At the recently held IPM Essen show in Germany, the GLOBALG.A.P. certification scheme presented a range of sustainable solutions.
A bit of history to start with. In 1997, members of the EHI Retail Institute, including the German retailers EDEKA and Spar, the British retailer Safeway, and crop protection products manufacturer Ciba-Geigy laid the foundation for EUREP, which later became EurepG.A.P. to finally become GLOBALG.A.P in 2007 to reflect its increasingly global scope.
The scheme was created in the aftermath of the BSE crisis in the UK and several cases of pesticide residue level exceedances in Spanish fruit and vegetables. Its primary goal was to actively restore the consumer’s faith in the food system by developing good agricultural practices (GAP) adopted by producers.
GLOBALG.A.P. Flowers and ornamentals
In a meeting with the press at IPM Essen, GLOBALG.A.P. managing director Dr Kristian Moeller, in the 1990s EUREPGAP’s first Secretary General, recalled how Tesco at the turn of the Millenium questioned whether GLOBALG.A.P.’s success in fruit and vegetables could be replicated in flowers and plants which eventually led to the GLOBALG.A.P. Flowers and Ornamentals standard in 2003. GLOBALG.A.P. F&O harmonised the established producer standards from three continents and introduced new measures to improve production controls.
Two decades on, GLOBALG.A.P.’s business-to-business Integrated Farm Assurance (IFA) standard for flowers and ornamentals has 2,495 producers under certification worldwide, who combined equal to 39,480ha of certified non-covered production and 4,592ha of certified, covered production.
IFA has just undergone a revision process, with IFAVersion6 becoming mandatory in December 2024. The retooled IFAV6 is specific to flowers and ornamentals and is a much leaner standard as it comprises 30 fewer principles and criteria. It is better aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), addresses plant health and product quality issues, and includes a renewed focus on sustainability. This attention includes the health and safety of workers and the controlling and monitoring of energy, water, plant protection products, peat, and fertilisers (nitrogen and phosphorous). IFAV6 also supports the calculation of producers’ environmental footprint.
The Impact-Driven Approach to Sustainability (IDA) add-on, GLOBALG.A.P.’s Impact-Driven Approach (IDA) sustainability module, was highlighted. This system helps flower and ornamentals farms collect, process, and store their data on inputs such as energy, water, plant protection products, nitrogen, and phosphorus. They then share their farm data with GLOBALG.A.P., which processes it and returns in the form of personalised trend graphs and progress reports. These reports show producers how they compare to similar (anonymous) producers in input consumption and help identify areas for ongoing improvement. The new IDA module builds on the existing IFA standard as an add-on. Still, it can also be a smaller, independent standard or combined with a different farm assurance scheme.
GLOBALG.A.P. expert Alexandre Garcia-Devís Flores updated IPM attendees about the GLOBALG.A.P. Risk Assessment on Social Practice (GRASP) version 2, a farm-level social/labour management tool for global supply chains that producers of flowers and plants, fruit, vegetables and fish can voluntarily add to the IFA standard.
GRASP v2 main objective, he said, is to monitor the social risks within the floriculture sector. It contains efficient principles and criteria for forced labour risk indicators, the protection of human rights, and potential exposure to worker discrimination.
The principles and criteria in GRASP were adapted to the reality of migrant labour flows, short-term contracting, and subcontracted labour risks. Producers now have access to better processes to provide social compliance to complicated labour resources. GRASP can now be applied to small family farms without hired labour. This opens up the opportunity for smallholders to participate in the international market.
Under GRASPv2, workers have the right to association, representation, and access to information on labour regulation. 2022 saw over 110,000 producers with GRASP certification employing more than 1.7 million agricultural workers worldwide. GRASP v2 was released in September 2022 and will become mandatory on 1 January 2024.
GGN consumer label
The GLOBALG.A.P. standard has been the base for developing the GGN (GLOBALG.A.P. Number) consumer label, including 220 license agreements in 2022 and 367 GGN.ORG farm profiles in the same year. The label, launched in 2018, connects consumers with the origins of the flowers and plants they buy. Cleverly, each 13-digit number on the GGN label identifies the grower of the plant by locating them on the GLOBALG.A.P. database.
The GGN label confirms, for instance, that an auditor from an accredited and independent certification body approved by GLOBALG.A.P. has checked to see if the farm complies with strict rules and regulations to protect its workers’ health, safety, and welfare.
Fruit and vegetable plants in pots are a special case as they are primarily produced by flowers and ornamentals growers and traded in the floriculture supply chain under the general category of “plants”. However, the products themselves – such as vegetable plants, fruit trees, berry bushes, and herbs – are classified under the product category fruit and vegetables (under the IFA v6 standard), with additional food safety considerations.
For the GGN label to be used on fruit and vegetable plants in pots, producers must have a fully compliant GRASP assessment, and supply chain members must have GLOBALG.A.P. Chain of Custody certification. While fruit and vegetable producers participating in the GGN label initiative are required to participate in a GLOBALG.A.P.-approved residue monitoring system, this is only necessary for fruit and vegetable plants in pots if the plants are edible or bear edible parts at the time of sale.
The first fruit and vegetable plants in pots with a GGN label are projected to be available in stores beginning in spring 2023.
In wrapping up the press call, Peter Opschroef, a third-generation anthurium and hebe grower from Straelen, Germany, stressed that certification is the way forward as “society is increasingly looking for answers from producers. Consumers want to know how we grow our plants.”
Consumers have higher standards for corporate dedication to sustainability and social rights. Meanwhile, Opschroef says the biggest challenge is finding the right answers to often complex matters. “What does sustainability exactly entail, what is sustainable, what not and how to achieve the right level of sustainability with fewer crop protection products available, set against rising commodity prices. And how will sustainability impact our products,’ shelf life, and what will the end consumer’s reaction?”
Opschroef also referenced the growing pressure on using peat as growing media, saying that the peat debate should address the difficult questions. “You can grow your plants on coco coir alternatively. But coco peat needs washing, and how does this impact water consumption and the quality of water affluents.”
Dutch Flower Group
Raimon Loman is a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) manager at Dutch Flower Group (DFG).
DFG posted a €2bn turnover last year. It is a globally acting conglomerate of more than 30 trading companies selling bouquets, flowers, plants, and everything in between to traditional wholesale, retailers, and online flower and plant delivery services.
Loman explained that DFG’s biggest challenge today is to increase the percentage of FSI-compliant products bought through the auction clock, as data show that up to 80 per cent of auction-bought volumes are non-FSI compliant.
DFG moved heaven and earth and talked to all its purchasers. Eventually, it hopes that growers will realise what continuing as non-certified means, that sustainability is here to stay and that in the light of the Green Deal and CSR, the sector needs transparency and that companies like DFG will be pretty much forced to purchase only FSI-compliant products. Read more here The Green Masters of CSR • AIPH