Sus­tain­able goals re­quired

Mea­sur­ing, re­view­ing and re­port­ing are all needed for the ki­wifruit in­dus­try to move fur­ther to­wards a sus­tain­able fu­ture.

The Orchardist - - News - By Glenys Chris­tian

As Ze­spri con­tin­ues to grow and mar­kets ex­pand the ki­wifruit in­dus­try needs to set some mea­sur­able and tan­gi­ble sus­tain­able goals for New Zealand grow­ers to achieve, ac­cord­ing to Matt Nel­son.

He is an as­sis­tant area man­ager – ki­wifruit at Bay­gold and cur­rently man­ages 32 hectares of the crop, be­ing re­spon­si­ble for mon­i­tor­ing and main­tain­ing all its re­quire­ments as well as en­sur­ing all staff and con­trac­tors ad­here to health and safety poli­cies. He’s also the chair­per­son for the Bay of Plenty Bal­lance Farm En­vi­ron­ment Trust and re­cently com­pleted a Kel­loggs Ru­ral Lead­er­ship pro­ject look­ing at sus­tain­able pro­duc­tion.

Su­tain­able goals could in­clude ad­dress­ing chal­lenges like car­bon neu­tral­ity, emis­sions, zero waste and cre­at­ing so­cial net worth, he said.

“To be able to achieve these goals, we re­quire com­mit­ted lead­er­ship and strate­gic think­ing from Ze­spri to be able to drive sus­tain­abil­ity within the in­dus­try.”

While con­sumers were de­mand­ing trace­abil­ity through­out the sup­ply chain he ques­tioned whether this needed to be leg­is­lated in this coun­try. But he did sug­gest for­ma­tion of a se­nior lead­er­ship team for sus­tain­abil­ity in the ki­wifruit in­dus­try to en­sure that it was well-re­sourced, sup­ported, co-or­di­nated, ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing pre­mi­ums and able to tackle any problems or is­sues. Mea­sur­ing, re­view­ing and re­port­ing was im­por­tant for cred­i­bil­ity and ac­count­abil­ity.

For his pro­ject he looked at how other suc­cess­ful pri­mary in­dus­try busi­nesses could gain a higher pre­mium on their prod­ucts to give a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage and ex­clu­sive brand po­si­tion­ing. He wanted to see if there were any lessons that could be learned and adopted by Ze­spri and ki­wifruit grow­ers to gain an even higher pre­mium on their pro­duce for be­ing a sus­tain­able sup­plier.

“Our long-term eco­nomic com­pet­i­tive­ness will be in­creas­ingly grounded in the suc­cess of our clean green na­tional brand­ing,” he said.

“We are ex­pect­ing peo­ple to con­tin­u­ally buy our prod­ucts, we want a steady in­crease in the num­ber of for­eign tourists who fly to NZ, and if we want to be an ac­cept­able place for for­eign in­vest­ment, sus­tain­abil­ity needs to be at the fore­front of these con­ver­sa­tions.”

“Grow­ers and Ze­spri must con­tinue to stay ahead of all our com­peti­tors by main­tain­ing or en­hanc­ing the im­age and use this to tell our story to the mar­ket.”

A sus­tain­able busi­ness could be de­scribed as man­ag­ing the triple bot­tom line of fi­nan­cial, so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal risks, obli­ga­tions and op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“These three im­pacts are sim­ply re­ferred to as profit, peo­ple and planet,” he said.

“Sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment is meet­ing the needs of the present with­out com­pro­mis­ing the abil­ity of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to meet their own needs. As an in­dus­try, we must en­sure that we are us­ing land wisely and en­sure that we are leav­ing it in a bet­ter state for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

He car­ried out a lit­er­a­ture re­view and in­ter­views with pri­mary in­dus­try-based op­er­a­tions which fol­lowed sus­tain­abil­ity prin­ci­ples. An on­line sur­vey of grow­ers and post-har­vest ki­wifruit en­ti­ties was cir­cu­lated to 20 ki­wifruit sec­tor par­tic­i­pants, run­ning for 14 days and with 17 re­sponses re­ceived.

“Grow­ers and Ze­spri must con­tinue to stay ahead of all our com­peti­tors by main­tain­ing or en­hanc­ing the im­age and use this to tell our story to the mar­ket.”

His first case study was Syn­lait Milk which has a vi­sion to be the best across four pil­lars of dairy farm­ing; en­vi­ron­ment, an­i­mal health and wel­fare, milk qual­ity and so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity. Al­most all its sup­ply farms were within 80 kilo­me­tres of the man­u­fac­tur­ing plant, giv­ing it vis­i­bil­ity and control milk sourc­ing and how it’s pro­duced.

To be a cer­ti­fied mem­ber of its Lead with Pride brand the milk sup­plier must achieve ex­cel­lence in wa­ter and ir­ri­ga­tion man­age­ment, ef­fec­tive use of ef­flu­ent, im­prov­ing bio­di­ver­sity on-farm, mon­i­tor­ing soil health, emis­sions and en­ergy man­age­ment. They must ex­ceed NZ’s an­i­mal wel­fare stan­dards with milk qual­ity mon­i­tored daily on-farm and at the pro­cess­ing plant. Its Syn­lait Sure sys­tem, an end-to-end process fo­cussing on un­com­pro­mised qual­ity, al­lows cus­tomers to see for them­selves the strength of the sup­ply chain.

The sec­ond was Sus­tain­able Wine­grow­ing New Zealand. In 2016, 98 per­cent of the coun­try’s pro­duc­ing vine­yards and winer­ies on a to­tal area of 35,558ha joined, and are now cer­ti­fied sus­tain­able, with seven per­cent of this area cer­ti­fied or­ganic.

The key ar­eas fo­cused on are; bio­di­ver­sity, by-prod­ucts, wa­ter, en­ergy, peo­ple, pest and dis­ease man­age­ment and soil. Those who have achieved a car­boNZero cer­ti­fi­ca­tion are finding an in­crease in sales es­pe­cially in the United King­dom, a 30 per­cent in­crease in profit within a year of cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and in­creased mar­ket im­pact. There’s also pos­i­tive ex­po­sure in the me­dia, dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion in mar­ket and cut through with trad­ing partners, cost re­duc­tions through en­ergy sav­ings and other ef­fi­cien­cies and fu­ture-proof­ing po­ten­tially against the neg­a­tive ef­fects of food miles.

Matt said the key ar­eas of sus­tain­abil­ity that Ze­spri was fo­cus­ing on were; soil and wa­ter, waste man­age­ment and re­duc­tion, man­ag­ing car­bon and green­house gas emis­sions, sup­port­ing em­ploy­ment and back­ing worker wel­fare, in­vest­ing in com­mu­ni­ties and build­ing ca­pa­bil­ity. It was fund­ing two projects around the loss of ni­tro­gen from the soil and how vines could op­ti­mise nu­tri­ents ef­fi­ciently. It was also try­ing to re­duce fruit waste on and off-shore and was us­ing 100 per­cent re­cy­clable pack­ag­ing.The spe­cialised reefer ves­sels it uses to get fruit to mar­kets are 27 per­cent more en­ergy ef­fi­cient than con­tainer ship­ping and Ze­spri is col­lab­o­rat­ing with SeaTrade to use the lat­est gen­er­a­tion of ves­sels, bio-fu­els and en­gines to achieve even greater re­duc­tions in emis­sions.

And it’s in­volved in the NZ Sus­tain­abil­ity Dash­board Pro­ject which aims to pri­ori­tise ef­forts and un­der­take ef­fec­tive sus­tain­abil­ity as­sess­ments to im­prove per­for­mance. Dr Jayson Benge, in­dus­try leader for the pro­ject, has been based at Ze­spri since 2011. The pro­ject aims to de­velop a sus­tain­able as­sess­ment and re­port­ing tool to help re­spond to in­creas­ing mar­ket improvements, re­source use and reg­u­la­tory re­quire­ments. It aims to help the pri­mary sec­tor de­velop user-friendly tools to help sus­tain­abil­ity as­sess­ment and re­port­ing and so im­prove the flow of in­for­ma­tion to el­e­vate per­for­mance while pro­tect­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial val­ues. The pro­ject is also ex­pected to re­duce mon­i­tor­ing and reg­u­la­tory costs, and help in both build­ing con­sumer trust and se­cur­ing mar­ket ac­cess.

Matt also in­ter­viewed Rachael Brodie, sus­tain­abil­ity co­or­di­na­tor at Trevelyan’s which prac­tices con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment, ef­fi­cient re­source use, is not afraid to in­vest in new tech­nolo­gies and col­lab­o­rates with grow­ers, staff, sup­pli­ers and the wider sup­ply chain. His third in­ter­view sub­ject was Glen Crowther, Bay of Plenty re­gional co­or­di­na­tor for the Sus­tain­able Busi­ness Net­work, which aims to con­nect busi­ness peo­ple for growth as well as shar­ing ex­pe­ri­ences and col­lab­o­rat­ing on re­new­able, ef­fi­cient solutions aimed at help­ing re­store the en­vi­ron­ment and em­power the com­mu­nity.

An on­line sur­vey of grow­ers and post-har­vest ki­wifruit en­ti­ties was cir­cu­lated to 20 ki­wifruit sec­tor par­tic­i­pants, run­ning for 14 days and with 17 re­sponses re­ceived. It showed 55 per­cent of grow­ers and post-har­vest fa­cil­i­ties had fo­cused on im­prov­ing in­ter­nal sys­tems and pro­cesses and try­ing to re­duce waste. There were 67.1 per­cent of re­spon­dents who said com­mu­nity en­gage­ment was the ma­jor fo­cus for their busi­nesses go­ing for­ward. Asked about the ma­jor sus­tain­abil­ity chal­lenges their or­gan­i­sa­tion faced 62.9 per­cent of grow­ers and post-har­vest op­er­a­tors found the lack of in­cen­tives and reg­u­la­tory bar­ri­ers a large ob­sta­cle. Some named lack of in­cen­tives to make it worth­while, reg­u­la­tory bar­ri­ers or poor reg­u­la­tion, in­suf­fi­cient con­sumer de­mand, the high cost of sus­tain­abil­ity, re­sis­tance from sup­pli­ers, re­cruit­ing skilled labour, un­der­stand­ing good prac­tice and re­sis­tance from se­nior man­age­ment.

The cost of sus­tain­abil­ity was viewed as a ma­jor chal­lenge for some grow­ers and post-har­vest fa­cil­i­ties with some say­ing re­sis­tance came mostly from lack of ed­u­ca­tion on sus­tain­abil­ity. There was trou­ble un­der­stand­ing global sus­tain­abil­ity is­sues and how do they re­lated to the NZ mar­ket while oth­ers named con­flict­ing pri­or­i­ties and prob­lem un­der­stand­ing the best fo­cus of busi­ness ef­fort.

Asked about their busi­nesses’ agreed plan for the next three to five years for sus­tain­abil­ity some were pur­su­ing very am­bi­tious goals while oth­ers aimed to un­der­stand the mean­ing of sus­tain­abil­ity and steadily work to­wards that. One said they wanted to en­sure NZ hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ists were recog­nised as world lead­ers in food pro­duc­tion.

When they were asked how im­por­tant they thought be­ing a sus­tain­able busi­ness was for the NZ econ­omy re­spon­dents used the words crit­i­cal and im­por­tant.

“We have a unique cul­ture of be­ing adapt­able and re­silient and solv­ing problems in cre­ative ways – this will drive op­por­tu­ni­ties to add value and tran­si­tion to­wards low car­bon econ­omy and net restora­tive fu­ture,” one said.

Asked how the NZ pri­mary sec­tor com­pared with their coun­ter­parts over­seas re­gard­ing sus­tain­abil­ity there were a va­ri­ety of re­sponses. Some felt the NZ brand needed to be cap­i­talised on and while there were unique op­por­tu­ni­ties to fully em­brace sus­tain­abil­ity, some value-add op­por­tu­ni­ties were lost through ex­port­ing raw or un­treated prod­ucts straight to mar­ket. Other said NZ needed to get bet­ter at mea­sur­ing, re­port­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing around sus­tain­abil­ity.

They were then asked what op­por­tu­ni­ties there were for the NZ ki­wifruit in­dus­try to be more sus­tain­able. Some said there was a need to be able to col­lect ac­cu­rate data on in­puts and trans­late those into some sus­tain­able progress. Oth­ers said there was a need to iden­tify the in­dus­try’s top five chal­lenges so the en­tire in­dus­try was work­ing to­wards the most crit­i­cal sus­tain­abil­ity as­pects, while some grow­ers ad­vised oth­ers to “em­brace rather than re­sist” and “put egos aside and col­lab­o­rate”.

There was a feel­ing that Gov­ern­ment should give more em­pha­sis to re­search and de­vel­op­ment with tax breaks for those busi­nesses which adopted sus­tain­able prac­tices. And there should be greater clar­ity around en­vi­ron­men­tal lim­its backed by sound re­search.

“Asked about the ma­jor sus­tain­abil­ity chal­lenges their or­gan­i­sa­tion faced 62.9 per­cent of grow­ers and posthar­vest op­er­a­tors found the lack of in­cen­tives and reg­u­la­tory bar­ri­ers a large ob­sta­cle.”

When it came to the role sus­tain­abil­ity played in the over­all strate­gic plan of their busi­ness many said it was a core value. And a ques­tion about the use of al­ter­na­tive en­ergy sources like wind or so­lar showed this was gain­ing mo­men­tum, al­though 94 per­cent said they were not us­ing al­ter­na­tive en­ergy sources at present. Two busi­nesses were in­ter­ested in re­plac­ing their fos­sil fuel trans­port and a move to elec­tric ve­hi­cles was a high pri­or­ity. He asked what ad­di­tional in­cen­tives could be in­tro­duced in the ki­wifruit in­dus­try to gen­er­ate pre­mi­ums for Ze­spri grow­ers, if it was to adopt a sys­tem like that of Syn­lait Lead with Pride. All grow­ers’ GAP cer­ti­fi­ca­tion could be the base level with ad­di­tional tiers of the pro­gramme named Ze­spri Plus and Ze­spri Elite, he said. “If a grower achieves the min­i­mum stan­dard and wishes to move up a level to Ze­spri Plus, they will be re­quired to cover the three pil­lars of sus­tain­abil­ity, and a pre­mium pay­ment could be paid on the sup­ply of these trays.The top tier, Ze­spri Elite, could be known as the lead­ing prac­tice once Ze­spri Plus sta­tus was main­tained for a min­i­mum of 12 months.” Ze­spri and a grower rep­re­sen­ta­tive team would need to come up with ad­di­tional re­quire­ments for this tier. The cre­ation of a sys­tem like Lead with Pride would po­ten­tially not need to be a sep­a­rate pay­ment pool, as this fruit could be in­cluded in the or­ganic cat­e­gory to achieve an ad­di­tional tray pre­mium. Matt said while all the peo­ple he spoke to had some de­gree of sus­tain­abil­ity in place in their busi­ness, he be­lieved bet­ter mod­els needed to be more for­mally dis­cussed and im­ple­mented. His lit­er­a­ture re­view pro­vided some rel­e­vant tips and con­cepts, but bar­ri­ers needed to be over­come. Some mea­sur­able and tan­gi­ble goals needed to be set for NZ grow­ers to achieve, which could in­clude ad­dress­ing chal­lenges like car­bon neu­tral­ity, emis­sions, zero waste and cre­at­ing so­cial net worth. Ze­spri’s re­view­ing of past per­for­mance and look­ing at fu­ture progress was a tremen­dous way of build­ing trust with key cus­tomers and con­sumers, he said. “NZ is al­ready a world leader in de­vel­op­ing a sus­tain­able and prof­itable pri­mary sec­tor that sets a strong ex­am­ple to the rest of the world.”

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