If you asked one hundred people what is the most sustainable shop they know, you probably wouldn’t be surprised if the vast majority eventually settled on garden centres. For those of us immersed in all things horticulture, it would be fair to say that there’s always room for improvement. That’s not taking away from all the great work already underway. It’s just that sustainability in all its shades brings with it as many issues as it does opportunities.
Most consumers consider sustainability an important topic. And when it comes to horticulture, you can probably rachet that up – significantly. Whether right or wrong, the bar is just slightly higher.
There is no debate about the good that domestic horticulture can bring to individuals, families, and wider society. Even in the most basic terms, trees, plants, and flowers play a vital role in our planet’s ecosystem. You could say that garden centres have been helping the world become greener for decades.
But with a developing sense of urgency around environmental matters, not least from climate change, there is a common acceptance from our industry, and indeed all industries, that we must ensure the environmental sustainability of business. Not only does the planet depend on it, but increasingly, profits do, too.
In recent weeks, the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) welcomed the publication of the report from the year-long House of Lords Horticulture Committee special inquiry for recognising the importance of UK horticulture as a key deliverer of environmental targets.
With over 1,400 members across the UK’s entire gardening and horticulture supply chain, the HTA and its members increasingly recognise that so much of the sought-after recognition, improved or optimised policymaking, new solutions, and new ideas sit in data.
If you are obligated under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), you are responsible for collecting and reporting data for all packaging placed onto the UK market. With retailers, nurseries, manufacturers and suppliers facing unprecedented upheaval owing to the various initiatives and regulations that are now entering the packaging space, my.ecoveritas aims to help horticultural businesses better understand their sustainable obligations, get compliant, and respond appropriately through reduction, substitution, and recycling packaging strategies.
This brand-new data reporting software, which was painstakingly built to streamline data collection and reporting, makes EPR management much simpler and more cost-effective. It promises to deliver EPR in days, not months. With EPR fees now due to start in October 2025, the EPR data submission deadline for large producers May 31, 2024 and for small producers slated for April 1, 2024, those building out their collection and reporting capacity are forging ahead. On the flip side, in a recent webinar hosted by the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) and Ecoveritas, 68% of those in attendance hadn’t submitted data to the regulator yet – something both Defra and Ecoveritas point to as being crucial in calculating the upcoming fees.
my.ecoveritas calculates your obligations under the Packaging Waste (Data Reporting) Regulations using a method approved by the Environment Agency. Having worked closely with the HTA for over 10 years, this method has been developed to deal with the specific set of challenges faced by the industry. It is tailored to produce calculation results that meet the requirements under the regulations as accurately as is reasonably possible. Crucially for the sector, it avoids collecting weights from dozens of suppliers and gives you that added peace of mind that your submission meets accuracy standards.
Garden centres, growers and nurseries can handle small amounts of packaging but this can be quite varied. Unlike larger businesses, they often do not have sophisticated systems for collecting the product data required for complex calculations of packaging amounts, and it is onerous to obtain precise data on packaging. my.ecoveritas does the hard work, matching packaging weights to sales and product data, and after six easy steps, you can submit your report to the government portal or directly to the compliance scheme of your choosing.
From complex reporting to government, increased management time, multiple reporting deadlines, and demanding data collection, to understanding the regulations, rising compliance fees, and pressure to show environmental performance, there hasn’t been an affordable and accessible solution for SMEs – until now.
That’s why we’re on the cusp of a tectonic shift. Those looking to work effectively not to weaken the UK’s global standing on environmental issues increasingly view it as a numbers game. Where sustainability evokes strong emotions on all sides, data can provide clarity and support the growth of our original green industry.
According to research by The Flower Council of Holland and global data, insights and consulting company Kantar, respondents in the United Kingdom stress the importance of devoting extra attention to the problem of excessive (non-recyclable) packaging: overconsumption, waste, and overpackaging features among the top five concerns of British consumers. To say the issue is on their radar is an understatement.
Among a host of other proactive steps being taken, including working with local nurseries and producers, working with suppliers to support the use of sustainable raw materials, lowering greenhouse and building emissions, monitoring energy consumption, improving water usage, electrifying delivery fleets, reducing the amount of physical waste through operations and sale of goods continues to cause headaches.
For those wanting to continue leading the way by offering a wide array of sustainable solutions and stock their shelves with items that align with sustainability principles, it’s imperative to get it right. And in that case, equipping yourself with data is a smart choice.
The horticulture industry is perpetually evolving and constantly searching for novel and inventive approaches to enhance all things, but who better to lead the way on packaging waste than an industry intrinsically and positively linked to the environment?
You don’t need us to tell you that sowing early means earlier blooms, which is precisely the case with Extended Producer Responsibility. By growing your compliance data, you can make it a habit on your terms and unlock a new world of valuable business insight.
As our green industry grows, we are improving at bringing more holistic products to market – packaging included. But to keep pace, we must measure what matters and do what we all know to be the right thing by our conscience and our customers.
And don’t underestimate the eco-conscious, sustainable consumer in all of this. They have all the power. And as they continue making more sustainable choices, they and data will drive this green transition – no matter the industry.
Businesses are now able to sign up for a free account at my.ecoveritas.com, where, along with a host of useful resources, including a comprehensive guide to EPR and unlimited access to an EPR obligation checker, they can take a more detailed look at the new software, as well as obtain a quote in two simple steps. my.ecoveritas enables businesses to comply confidently without needing in-depth knowledge of the latest rules and regulations.
This piece is written by Sandy Dhesi, Commerical Manager at Ecoveritas.