Sustainability Center Stage

April 23, 2010

The Global Conference on Sustainability kicked off this morning in a full ballroom at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.

Jeff Dlott, president and CEO of SureHarvest, started the discussion by talking about why sustainability matters in 2010. As leaders in the marketplace (the Amazons and WalMarts of the world) seek to connect to customers in deeper ways – while at the same time consumers have more options about how to express demand, compare and buy – sustainability will continue to be part of the equation. Dlott prompted questions from the audience, many of whom agreed that growers are already sustainable and didn”t see then need for sustainability metrics, but others countered that a consistent measure would verify and provide data for continual improvement.

The audience then heard from Hal Hamilton, co-director of the Sustainable Food Lab, Hank Giclas, senior vice president of strategic planning, science and technology for Western Growers Association, and John Keeling, president of the National Potato Council. They spoke about different parts of the Sustainability Index for Specialty Crops, with Hamilton identifying why a comprehensive matrix is needed, Giclas describing the process of forming SICS and Keeling identifying the need for more grower input and his thoughts on the uses of a sustainability program.

The overall theme of the morning”s presentations could be described as the need for a consistent sustainability matrix. Having multiple certifications could lead to similar issues as found in food safety auditing, and there could still be questions as to how the data would be shared. But sustainability isn”t just something that is pushed down from buyers – it can have a positive effect on the bottom line.

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