SUSTAINABILITY. The word was once used to help secure funding grants, if not brushed aside completely in the horticulture sector.
Now, it's become a high priority and seen as a tangible, achievable and necessary part of business.
That's the outcome from the inaugural Horticulture Sustainability Summit held in Sydney in March where key decision-makers from the horticulture, technology, transport and retail sectors gathered.
Hosted by Rural Research and Development Corporation, Hort Innovation and the International Fresh Produce Association, the event follows on from the release of the Australian-Grown Sustainability Framework last year.
Best-practice approaches already being applied by industry businesses were discussed, along with what is working, what is not and how that can be harnessed to create annual sustainability reporting for the industry as a whole.
Hort Innovation general manager of stakeholder experience Dr Anthony Kachenko said the summit marked a shift in industry priorities.
"Ten years ago, sustainability - from environmental management and waste minimisation to workforce development - did not get the same consideration it does today," Dr Kachenko said.
After the panel, a host of participants stood up to offer their experiences with sustainable practices including New South Wales nursery grower Sonja Cameron.
Ms Cameron spoke on the values of her operation and commitment to environmentally conscious approaches over the years.
"Our philosophy is we have no right to pollute the land where we operate our business as we are merely caretakers for future generations," she said.
There is a historic shift happening in the industry, Hort Innovation chief executive Matt Brand.
"Times are rapidly changing," he said.
"This rise in sustainable business practices is driven by a growing collective conscience that is felt by not only growers but also the consumers they serve and those that invest in their businesses."
International Fresh Produce Association ANZ chief executive Darren Keating said while IFPA, and others including major companies, may have sustainability policies in place, it is important to get everyone in the horticulture industry on the same page and share learnings wherever possible.
"When it comes to protecting the stewardship of our land, our people and our local and global reputations, there should be no competition between business', just a collective agreement that we are all doing whatever we can to move in a positive direction," Mr Keating said.
The information gathered at the summit will help form part of the Australian-grown Horticulture Sustainability Report, an inaugural reporting document that provides baseline data aligned with the focus areas within The Sustainability Framework.
The report is expected to be complete in October.
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