‘Sustainability is not a cost item it’s a money generator’

Koppert: interview Flavio Alzueta GlobalGAP

Sustainable development takes into account the needs of the present generationithout compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. However, a great deal of effort is required to achieve this, and the biggest barrier is the lack of leadership in sustainability.

So says Flavio Alzueta, Vice President of GLOBALG.A.P., the organization that promotes sustainability in numerous agricultural sectors worldwide. In February, he will speak at a Koppert meeting during the Fruit Logistica international trade fair in Berlin. His talk is sure to also discuss a number of obstacles on the road to a more sustainable world, such as the lack of adequate leadership.

Speaking on a personal note, Flavio Alzueta believes that sustainability is moving at several different speeds globally. He explains: ‘We know that the European Union has already reached a number of targets earlier than other regions of the world. However, the United States refuses to recognize the impact a changing climate is having on our world, which is regrettable. Political leaders must understand that sustainability strategies are far from cost items. They're quite the opposite: they save money.’

Incorporating objectives
Flavio Alzueta believes that the necessary impulses need to come from other sections of society. ‘Thankfully, we're seeing signs of that. Societies and their citizens are rapidly changing and demanding that politicians really get to grips with the enormous challenge of increasing sustainability.’
To achieve progress, however, it is crucial that all parties agree on the objective. According to Flavio Alzueta, the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) offer an excellent toolkit that helps all those who are committed to sustainability. ‘In addition to this, these objectives must form part of business and government strategies. And of course, individual citizens can also make changes to their everyday lives.’

Adding value to chains
GLOBALG.A.P. has an important role, given the myriad of areas in which it is active. The organization was founded in order to promote Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) worldwide. ‘Members of both the public and private sector agree that our GAPs form the foundation on which to build sustainable agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture and livestock production. This is because these practices are so multifaceted, involving water usage, animal welfare, the sensible use of antibiotics, the use of only authorized plant
protection products, and so on.’

GLOBALG.A.P. was specially developed for small and mid-sized farms and horticultural companies, which are often family businesses. ‘If we can offer them a transparent system that guarantees traceability, we can foster Mutual trust in the global trade in agricultural products and work towards achieving several objectives at the same time. This is how GLOBALG.A.P. adds value to production and distribution chains in agriculture, and we will continue to build on this.’

The right context
An example of this sort of added value is a module for Dutch chrysanthemum growers that GLOBALG.A.P. and Koppert have been working on together. This is an add-on to the requirements GLOBALG.A.P. places on affiliated ornamental growers. The add-on means that chrysanthemum growers can clearly communicate to their German buyers that they have used no neonicotinoids or that they are cutting back on these insecticides as much as possible.

‘There may be more of these add-ons in the future. Using add-ons on top of the GLOBALG.A.P. standards is the most cost-efficient solution to respond to new challenges and solving problems meanwhile the costs
for producers suffer a small increase. This is the line of thinking behind our work with Koppert, a company that has assumed leadership and is acting to resolve a problem, in this case in the ornamentals sector. It demonstrates that Koppert has fully understood the context within which a company can play a huge role.’

Each company or organization must effectively contextualize sustainability, says Flavio Alzueta. ‘You need to ask yourself two questions. The first is how a company or organization stands in relation to the developments taking place around it. The second is how best to respond to these developments. Answering these questions will help you establish effective sustainability strategies.’

Creating shared value
Now we're onto the most crucial question: is there a way to reconcile sustainability with the need to grow an economy year-on-year? ‘Many companies, economists, and politicians think and believe that an economy needs to be constantly growing in order to sustain levels of prosperity. But we see that this is absolutely detrimental to our environment, the earth, which is why I'd like to refer to the theory of “creating shared value.”
Anyone looking to apply this theory in practice has to come up with a business case that removes environmentally and socially harmful problems and solves them. Companies that do so successfully notice that sustainability contributes to earnings performance – it's not a process that only drives up costs.’

Encouraging innovation
Flavio Alzueta comes back to the importance of leadership. ‘We need leaders who are able to encourage their organizations and people to become more innovative. Why? Because we know that the natural
resources we are using are finite. The global population is set to grow by 30% by 2030, which means a 50% rise in the demand for food and a 30% increase in the demand for energy and water. Although confronting, this is the context that we must recognize and accept. Everyone has the choice to assume a role in creating a more sustainable future.’