Sustainability brings opportunity for the garden industry

NOTTINGHAM, UK: Sustainability was as the underlying theme of the day at the UK’s annual Cultivating Retail Conference.

The key messages to come from the quality line up of speakers at the Cultivating Retail Conference held on 19 November in Nottingham included:

  • The garden industry is well placed to offer solutions that help mitigate the impact of climate change and shape the implementation of the Government’s 25-year environment plan.
  • The actions of individuals and businesses can make a real difference.
  • Sustainability is no longer just a ‘nice to have’ but an essential and integral component of modern business.
  • The industry needs to provide a unified approach to address the positive challenges and opportunities that sustainability presents.

The conference brought together two hundred representatives from across the industry. With movements such as Extinction Rebellion rising to the fore and each political party vying for the green vote these changing times show environmental concerns have become mainstream. Consumers expect more from businesses and expect them to operate in a sustainable manner.

In conversation with HTA President Boyd Douglas-Davies, Dr David Bek, Sustainability Economist from Coventry University, spoke about the positives that the industry brings in terms of producing plant material and products that store and convert carbon. “With a changing climate, there is a real opportunity to adapt and challenge our approach to gardening embracing the more chaotic style of nature creating a new normal. The horticulture industry needs to be bold, innovative and nimble and connect with consumers to make a substantive impact on biodiversity and climate change”, said Dr Bek.

This was echoed by former CEO of Tesco, Sir Terry Leahy, who said that “sustainability brings new business opportunities for the garden industry to respond to. With changing weather patterns, increasing emphasis on biosecurity and provenance, garden centres are better placed and more relevant than many high street retail outlets to meet consumer demand as they provide the solutions for many of these issues.”

Bringing synergies from the takeaway sector, Graham Corfield, Chief Operating Officer for Just Eat, highlighted that “whilst sustainability is a big planet issue, individuals and communities can make a real difference as all actions add up to help change consumer behaviour.”

Addressing the audience, HTA Chairman James Barnes commented that “it has never been so important to come together as an industry to present a unified approach to demonstrate how we can provide solutions to help mitigate the impact of climate change.”

He added,  “The HTA has an opportunity and responsibility to help further the industry’s commitment to developing in an environmentally sustainable manner. Our planned environmental sustainability roadmap will enable us to be the central point of policy information for the industry on key topics including water, growing media, plastics, and energy.”

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