Sustainable plant and flower production is vital as consumers want to purchase with a clear conscience. They want as little damage to the environment as possible and fair wages and labour conditions for the workers. How do you do that?
Kenya Flower Council CEO Jane Ngige spoke to Royal Floraholland about the Kenyan approach.
What happend in the last ten years?
"A lot. Growers now know the importance of sustainable production. Moreover, Kenya built highly competitive systems in regards to sustainability and social conduct. Kenya Flower Council (KFC) ratified them in a Code of Practice. Of course companies have their own responsibilities, but KFC verifies that what they do fits this Code of Practice. And we keep these systems up to date. Last year, for instance, we added a section about water, especially for our members near Lake Naivasha, to tackle local water problems. We pointed out that every nursery needs an implementation plan with targets and a timetable which we check. But the nurseries themselves develop their own water management systems. So the system is controllable and transparent."
Transparency is exacly what European and US retailers ask, isn't it?
"It sure is. Retailers put pressure on us. Their clients only want flowers that do not damage the environment or stimulate global warming and are not produced at the cost of the workers. So retailers demand reliable, transparent systems giving them these certainties. They make it very clear to us if parts of our system do not meet their demands. If so, they will tell us to make changes. Because we want to develop our Code of Practice in accordance with our stakeholders, some of them (Royal FloraHolland, for instance) are involved in maintaining it and the checks that we do."
How did KFC members react to your code of practice?
"It's not our Code of Practice, it's the member's Code of Practice. Being a KFC member means you have to produce under this code. But being a KFC member is voluntary. Our members pay to belong to the KFC organisation. By doing so they accept the Code of Practice. There may have been one of two members opposed to it, but almost all our members appreciate the code. Now there are some growers (members and nonmembers) who cannot reach the standards of the KFC Code of Practice. In accordance with our government and other stakeholders, we created a less restrictive code. If you want to export flowers from Kenya, you are obliged to fulfil the rules of this code.
In recent years Kenya signed treaties with other countries, among other things concerning phytosanitary issues. Our Code of Practice has helped us tremendously in these processes, because we can prove transparently the technical and scientific validity of our methods. Sustainability is starting to be one of our USPs."