At Growers United, sustainable business has always been high on the agenda. But the exploding costs for energy and raw materials and the increasing focus on climate and sustainably grown products stress the importance of our approach even more. ‘Our sustainable ambition currently focuses on 2040,’ says chairman and tomato and cucumber grower Jack Groenewegen. ‘That is still far away and with the current speed of climate change, the question is whether we should bring this date forward.’
Horti Footprint as a method to monitor sustainability
In 2019, Growers United started monitoring the sustainable steps that takes as a cooperation. ‘We focus on our use of energy, water, products and waste,’ Jack explains. ‘Previously, we collected data of the cooperation as a whole, but nowadays, we also focus on our individual growers.’ The method that is used, is called the Horti Footprint an internationally recognised measuring tool that shows how our growers are doing in terms of sustainability.
‘Seven growers took part in a successful pilot,’ Jack continues. ‘After having measured their footprint, we will use this method for our other growers too. We already had a clear view of Gowers United as a whole, but to take constructive steps, we also need the data of our individual growers. Comparing their data instantly indicates where we can improve to reach our sustainable goals sooner.’
This makes the expected European accreditation of this method, as a uniform measuring tool of the footprint during the production of fruit and vegetables, even more important.
Taking constructive steps with the importance of sustainability in mind
As Growers United, we do everything within our power to bring down our footprint. ‘And this does not just apply to a few of our growers focusing on sustainability, but to all of our growers together,’ Jack says. ‘It should be clear why sustainable production is important. The consequences of climate change affect everyone. In addition, our growers need a solid and sustainable plan when applying for a loan at a bank, for example. And retailers too, are expanding their range of sustainable products to meet the market’s demand. In the future, the EU will introduce extra taxes for growers with an increased carbon emission. Examples like these create more awareness and stress the importance of sustainable change.’
Political lobby is crucial to reach sustainable goals
As Growers United, we remain ambitious when it comes to reaching our sustainable goals. ‘We inform and inspire our growers during various sessions,’ Jack explains. ‘But taking quick action is only possible with additional support of our government. Through political decision-making for example, and subsidiaries. As a cooperation, we often raise our voice and provide input to industry organisation Glastuinbouw Nederland, this allows us to stand stronger as a sector in our political lobby.’
‘At Growers United, we have been focusing on sustainable production for many years. In the greenhouse horticulture industry too, we notice an increasing demand for non-chemical pest-control. The government should act accordingly though and allow the use of new organic pest-control. Only through successful collaboration between the government and our industry can we meet our sustainable goals sooner. As Growers United is keen to produce its products sustainably in 2030 already instead of in 2040. The only question is if the conditions allow us to do so.