Methodology for environmental footprint

Unambiguous calculation environmental footprint with 'HortiFootprint

On 20 July 2020 a consortium of companies presented the report 'HortiFootprint Category Rules' (HFCR). This report contains calculation rules for calculating an environmental footprint of horticultural products for both ornamentals and fruit and vegetables. The methodology is as far as possible in line with European directives and aims to arrive at an objective and standardised methodology for calculating the environmental footprint of horticultural products.

The document is primarily intended for professionals in the horticultural sector who are involved in sustainability determinations according to the Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) methodology and contains unambiguous calculation rules for the fifteen impact categories in the calculation of the environmental footprint at product level. Examples include the environmental impact of production on climate, land use and resource depletion. Applying the calculation rules provides insight into the environmental impact of the product, where there is room for improvement within the business process and how the environmental footprint compares to comparable products.

The consortium hopes that companies will embrace the methodology and think along with them about further development at European level within the 'Product Environmental Category Rules (PEFCR)' of the European Commission. Within this framework, the consortium will continue to work on European recognition in the coming years, with floriculture being selected as an official trajectory in the European 'transition phase' for PEFCR.

Objective substantiation

With its unambiguous calculation rules, the report provides an answer to the growing need for a standardised, objective and scientifically substantiated assessment of the environmental impact of horticultural products throughout the entire chain from 'soil to mouth' or from 'farm to fork', in order to remain in European Green Deal terms. "The publication of these Hortifootprint Category Rules is an important step towards providing insight into sustainability in an integrated manner within the sector. Our members and customers can now make the environmental footprint transparent for their own products and use it within their chain for efforts and discussions about sustainability," says Daan van Empel, GroentenFruit Huis and Albert Haasnoot of Royal FloraHolland.

Download the main report:

Download the summaries:

Download the memos:

Why a new method?

There is no standard methodology in the horticultural sector yet. Calculation tools exist, but as these are based on out-dated or non-standardized methodologies, they cannot be used for benchmarking. Therefore, there is a need for a widely supported method that enables clear communication about a horticultural product’s environmental footprint.

In recent years, a large number of organisations, together with the European Commission, have gained experience with developing a European standard for the environmental footprint of specific product categories, such as paints, detergents, leather, dairy, pasta, beer, etc. (a total of 24 product categories). These experiences have also resulted in specific guidance for developing product category specific methodologies.

Therefore, Royal FloraHolland, GroentenFruit Huis and Wageningen Economic Research have initiated a project to align with the European developments, with involvement of prominent parties in the field, and co-funding from the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture through the Topsector Tuinbouw & Uitgangsmaterialen (organization for Public Private Partnerships in the horticultural sector).

Project objective

The aim of the collaboration is the creation of a uniform standard for the environmental footprint of horticultural products, accepted by the chain partners. The project partners strive for international acceptance of the methodology. Multiple important themes will be addressed, such as climate change, toxicity, water scarcity, land use, etc. Alignment within the sector is necessary to provide complete and consistent answers to questions from the government.

Consortium partners

The research was carried out by a team of experts from Wageningen Economic Research, Blonk Consultants and PRé Sustainability. The leading companies are GroentenFruit Huis and Royal FloraHolland. In addition, MPS, ABN AMRO Bank N.V., Rabobank, Glastuinbouw Nederland and Stichting Benefits of Nature were involved in the development as consortium partners and helped make the project possible. The project is financially supported by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality via Top Sector Horticulture & Starting Materials.

On-going: PEFCR for cut flowers and potted plants

The development of the Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules for potted plants and cut flowers (FloriPEFCR) is a follow up of this project. To deliver the European standard for calculating environmental footprint for Cut flowers and Potted plants, a thorough multi-stakeholder process is followed. TheFloriPEFCRdevelopmentis led by Royal FloraHolland. Read more about this here.

Next phase: shadow PEFCR for fruits and vegetables

The currently running EF Transition Phase is taking longer than expected and a new opening for PEFCR development within the PEF-framework is not foreseen on the short term. The fresh fruit and vegetable sector does not wish to wait in light of upcoming EU legislation and market developments. The release of the HortiFootprint Category Rules has marked the start of the development of the shadow-PEFCR for Fruits and Vegetables. In 2022 the fresh fruit and vegetable sector launched the Freshfel Environmental Footprint Initiative at European sector level under the guidance of Freshfel Europe, the European Fresh Produce Association. The aim of the Initiative is to start developing a shadow-PEFCR for the fresh fruit and vegetable sector that can later be converted into a formal PEFCR for the sector. This shadow-PEFCR will already at this stage ensure that environmental assessments are calculated in the same scientific way for any type of fruit or vegetable sold in Europe.

Forthcoming: Pisano, N., J. Weststrate, R. Broekema, I. Verweij-Novikova, F. Rosseneu and D. Reynolds (2022). Addressing sustainability in the fresh fruit and vegetable sector.