Associations from Spain, the Netherlands and Italy have been working for months on the development of a common approach to achieve a standard in terms of sustainability. The organisations that have been collaborating since October are COEXPHAL (Association of Fruit and Vegetable Producer Organizations of Almería), DPA (Dutch Produce Association) and CSO Italy (Centro Servizi Ortofrutticoli).
The three entities held a meeting at the Fruit Logistica international fair in Berlin, inviting other European producers to join this initiative. The aim is to develop a standardised approach to sustainability for fruit and vegetables.
The publication of the European Commission’s Green Deal in 2019 and the intensification of demands from retailers regarding sustainability, mark the beginning of a new era for sustainability. The European fruit and vegetable sector is facing a wild growth in private sustainability initiatives, labels, standards and certification schemes. This is something that European growers are following with concern as it is leading to confusion within the sector. To avoid this, the need for a standardized and scientifically based European evaluation method on the impact of fruit and vegetables has been seen.
Representatives from COEXPHAL, DPA and CSO Italy underlined the importance of an integrated and holistic approach to sustainability, including its three pillars: economic, environmental and social. It is essential to include economic impact assessment in decision-making, at all levels, to ensure the viability of producers at the beginning of the supply chain. However, the emphasis of this new unified standardised approach will be on environmental sustainability.
Luis Miguel Fernández, manager of COEXPHAL, said: “The drive for a coherent sustainability approach within the fruit and vegetable sector is here” and called for the tearing down of the European walls to safeguard the future of an economic sector which provides healthy and nutritious food to European citizens, urging other countries to join this open initiative.
Fernández added that the European fruit and vegetable sector “needs a common and consensual sustainability protocol on which we have already been working from Spain, the Netherlands and Italy, which is applicable to all European producers in the sector; with the same measurement and comparison methods so that all farmers have a single sustainability certification system supported by all supermarket chains”.
This standardised method to quantify the environmental impact of fruit and vegetables will allow the sector to consistently anticipate the different market requirements and upcoming European Union regulations. It should serve as the basis for a wide range of applications within the industry, such as certification systems, retail systems, labels and other communication methods. Producers have pledged to initiate the development and deployment of this unified approach and have invited new producers and their associations from across Europe to join.