Have your say

Have your say in November... Gonzalo La Cruz from Colombia!

"When the producers think about the workers and the environment and apply practices and codes of conduct which increase sustainability, they become more efficient and discover that by applying these good practices, they produce more with less".

By: Juliana Díaz, MBA.

In November we shared some inputs from sustainability in other agricultural products and Gonzalo La Cruz, Managing Director of Solidaridad Andes, was the man to talk with. Solidaridad focuses on the production chains that matter worldwide and where changes have great impact: coffee, tea, cacao, fruit, textiles, cotton, soy, palm oil, sugar cane, gold and cattle breeding. Let's see what he thinks about flower producers.

Florverde® Sustainable Flowers: 
Why do you believe that it is important to involve the agricultural producers in sustainability processes?

Gonzalo La Cruz: The producers are fundamental because they are the beginning or fist link in the chain that results in the final product. Traditionally and still today, for sophisticated products with many transformation processes, the value of the raw material as a percentage of the value of the final product is often very small, and for this reason the input of the producers of the raw material is often considered less important. 

However, if we look at it in black and white (as we say), without this raw material, we wouldn’t have the final product. Therefore, the topic of sustainability resides in how the raw material is produced; if it generates decent labor conditions that respect the workers as well as the environment. It is in the production of the raw material where we can generate the biggest impact and where there are the main demands and urgency for sustainability. Hence, to speak about sustainability without including the producers doesn’t make sense. 
FSF: And at a market level, what are the benefits for the producer to enter into sustainability processes?

Gonzalo: If we look at what has happened with certain products like cocoa, coffee, and fruits, what we see is that when the producers think about the workers and the environment and apply practices and codes of conduct which increase sustainability, they become more efficient and discover that by applying these good practices, they produce more with less. It is here that the producers see the positive effect of sustainability.

FSF: What are the challenges that producers and general agriculture sector businessmen have to confront in order to enter into those niche markets, or the markets that have very demanding consumers?

Gonzalo: There are various important factors; one in particular is called the custody chain or traceability. When a market, be it a supermarket, a brand, or a company, wants to offer its clients or consumers a more sustainable product, it is fundamental that it can guarantee the origin and reasons why this product is sustainable right from the beginning of its production; hence, the custody chain or traceability is very important and a key topic. 

I believe that the main challenge is to try and forget about the niche concept. We see it in coffee and other products that are more advanced like palm oil; we are leaving the ‘niche’ behind. If you want to continue in the market, you should comply with what the buyers’ demand (whether it be a certification or other quality control requisites.) In the early days it was pioneer work, with premium pay, but today it is hard enough to just stay in the market, so the big challenge is for companies, sectors and countries to maintain themselves in the market so they can continue to grow and leave the concept of ‘niche’ behind. In order to do this they need to strategically think about where and what the elements are that allow them to produce more with less. To identify this, we need to revise our logistics, the investments that we make, our internal management, and branding; this together with a series of elements in conjunction that, in some cases, is a challenge for a company or industry. I am convinced that if Colombia and its businessmen come together in common topics that are aligned to them in order to jump the niche into a superior segment of the market, the ones that do this first will be better off. Just like how Colombia had pioneers that were the first to become certified in different areas, I trust that Colombia will be one of the first to pass from niche markets to a better segment of consumers in an alliance between its companies, distributors and retailers. We can do it; here’s the challenge: to leave the niche and go to the mainstream as we say. 

FSF: What roles do organizations like “Solidaridad” play in the education of consumers and in the promotion of the consumption of sustainable products?

Gonzalo: Thanks for the question. Look, for some commodities we don’t have any agreement or plan to do so. We work hand-in-hand with companies to create awareness campaigns. We had a campaign for sustainable sugar, we currently have one for responsible chocolate, and we are also working on one called the ‘good gold’. We have to decide under what concept these campaigns can be carried out with emblematic actions. For example, ‘good gold’ was used to make the Olympic medals at the Winter Games in Europe. We were also about to close a deal in order to use responsible gold to make the Olympic medals in Brazil, but due to bureaucracy, we haven’t been able to get the gold to the refineries on time, which is more of a logistical problem than anything. We are happy to be able to speak with the flower industry in order to look for creative measures with which we can position Colombian flowers in Europe and the United States. It’s what we do and we are more than happy to be able to help.

Are you a flower producer? Please share the goals reached thanks to sustainable practices in your production in the comment section below, we'd love to read all of them!


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