The European Organic Congress by IFOAM, with the title “Organic’s contribution to the European Green Deal”, aims this year to inspire the participants by focusing on how the agri-food sector’s initiatives enhance the transition towards a more sustainable food system, through the aid of leading examples from representatives and experts amidst the organic sector. The New EU Organic Regulation 848/2018 will also be explored, while focusing on its implications for the objective of 25% EU organic land by 2030. We will dive deep into how organic districts, living labs and farm demonstrations contribute to rural development and the success of the Organic Action Plan. Moreover, organic’s contribution to climate change mitigation, with the EU Green Deal, the Biodiversity and Farm to Fork strategies and last but not least, the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) will be key themes for the Congress’ debates.
Bio & Sustainability
GLOBALG.A.P. focuses on microbial Risk
Microbial Risk Control a Top Priority in Upcoming GLOBALG.A.P. IFA Standard Revision
At this year’s GLOBALG.A.P. News Conference at Fruit Logistica 2014, members announced that one of the key issues for the upcoming revision of the GLOBALG.A.P. Integrated Farm Assurance Standard will be strengthening microbial risk control for fruit and vegetables. GLOBALG.A.P. Board Member Hugh Mowat from Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc and a panelist at the news conference said:
“Food safety has always been a key platform of the GLOBALG.A.P. Standard and GLOBALG.A.P. has undoubtedly made a major contribution toward maintaining consumer safety since its inception in 1996. In the light of ongoing food safety scares resulting from microbial contamination, GLOBALG.A.P. is taking a proactive approach to strengthen existing controls. These changes will be science-based and will support growers by providing a safe framework within which to grow food, as well as protecting them in the event of an incident.”
All the changes will go through the GLOBALG.A.P. process of public consultation and thereby seek harmonization with other pre-farm-gate standards. The first round of public consultations will start in mid-2014 and end with roundtable discussions at the GLOBALG.A.P. SUMMIT 2014 in Abu Dhabi on 27 October
UNIVEG’s path to sustainability
UNIVEG’s sustainability policy has been developed with retail clients rather than end consumers in mind for very practical reasons, explains the company’s Ben Horsbrugh.
UNIVEG is not a company to make a big noise about its sustainability strategy but has been no less effective in working on this complex issue. Away from the limelight, the Belgium-based fresh produce Group has been developing and implementing corporate social responsibility and sustainability policies over the past decade.
As Ben Horsbrugh UNIVEG’s director of Quality Management explains, the Group’s sustainability strategy has been developed more with its retail clients and less with the consumer in mind, in order to support retailers’ drive to improve the sustainability of their supply chains.
“Our sustainability mission statement is based on three pillars: supply chain, sourcing and society,” he says. “The strategy emerged from an intercompany process involving all top managers, in which we asked ourselves, ‘How can we improve the environmental and social performance of our supply chain and the sustainability of the produce we are sourcing?’ The final strategy, which can be found on our website, was developed by the managers who have the responsibility for implementation within our Group.”
In 2013 UNIVEG set itself the goal of producing an internal sustainability report summarizing the measures determined by each company within the Group. These included a wide range of initiatives ranging from social projects in South Africa and South America to energy efficiency improvements in UNIVEG packhouses. The process of producing the report, which was centrally coordinated by the UNIVEG Sustainability Team, had the effect of stimulating engagement and dialogue within the organization.
Making consumers aware of all this work is currently not a central priority for the company. As Ben Horsbrugh explains, “We could do a lot of publicity on our sustainable strategy and structure, but we don’t want to blow our trumpet too early.” Instead the company is focusing on putting the resources in place to implement concrete sustainability measures. For example, UNIVEG’s Peru-based Social Standard Coordinator, Olga Orozco, works on supporting and advising suppliers in improving social standards and complying with standards such as BSCI. These type of projects often improve the social impact on local communities. The aim of all this work, says Horsbrugh, is to integrate sustainability into UNIVEG’s business model. “UNIVEG is a public interest company, not a public limited company; making an effort to improve the sustainability of our value chain goes hand in hand with protecting the reputation of UNIVEG,” he says.
One of the biggest challenges to achieving an effective sustainability strategy is finding ways to increase value and not costs and Ben Horsbrugh admits that this is a big challenge. “Keeping costs under control as prices for raw materials and land increase is tough. Managing fruit and vegetable supply chains under volatile climate conditions is challenging. Finding and allocating the resources in tough markets to make supply chains more sustainable may seem like the icing on the cake, and I think that it is fair to say, that almost all companies in our sector are on a big learning curve here. However, since sustainability is on the agenda of every supermarket, it seems clear that the competitive advantage will go to companies who can manage these challenges most effectively.”
COLEACP: Promoting corporate social responsibility
COLEACP launches a new model for fruit and vegetable trade with developing countries
A charter to encourage a new CSR-based produce trade model was announced at Fruit Logistica by COLEACP, the organisation that manages the PIP and EDES programmes financed by the European Development Fund. “Enterprises that voluntarily commit themselves to this charter will receive backing from COLEACP to implement corporate social responsibility”, said Guy Stinglhamber, the COLEACP director. “Training and technical assistance modules will be created to support them”.
For the past two years COLEACP has been paying particular attention to upgrading ethical and sustainability standards in the relations between ACP producers and European importers. From now on, this aspect will be an essential feature of COLEACP’s activities. The European Development Days organised by the European Commission at the end of November 2013 put forward the idea that public-private partnership and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are essential factors for development. Immediately afterwards, COLEACP announced the launch of the PPP4PPP declaration: Public-Private Partnership for People-Planet-Profit. “This declaration upholds the new European development policy and the idea that CSR is a major factor for development”, emphasised Guy Stinglhamber. The declaration has been signed by 400 companies, interprofessional organisations and associations representing 30 to 40 million growers.
EU-Africa Business Forum
The PPP4PPP declaration will also be posted online in order to attract new signatories before the EU-Africa summit at the beginning of April, where COLEACP is co-organising an EU-Africa Agri-business Forum.
Since 2001, COLEACP has been managing the PIP and EDES programmes, financed by the European Development Fund, which have provided 100 million euro’s worth of technical assistance and training to ACP produce sectors. COLEACP (the Europe-Africa-Caribbean-Pacific Liaison Committee) was created in 1973. It is an interprofessional network that aims to defend the interests of producers/exporters in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific and EU importers of horticultural products. It has 400 members, representing 85% of the fruit and vegetable exports from ACP countries to Europe, and works hand-in-hand with FAO, the UN, the World Bank, DG SANCO and Freshfel, among others.