Transparency, the road to sustainability

In the flower and plant industry everyone seems to know each other and everything seems to be connected, even though there is healthy competition present. Suppliers, growers, trading companies and buyers form all kinds of different trade chains. At the same time, various organisations are created wherein different parties unite, or through which work is carried out for the sector as a whole. Nevertheless, the world of flowers and plants seems reasonably well-organised. This is mainly because most of the trade is carried out by a limited number of organisations. In my opinion, these trading companies, including auctions, are therefore an important link in the chain if you want to achieve something in the sector as a whole. 

How we treat our planet and its inhabitants is an important theme. This requires a critical look at your own footprint on Earth and the way in which you yourself, but also your suppliers, deal with nature and with the people involved in your business operations. Meanwhile, standards and values can differ quite a bit. Certainly because these are also shaped by cultural aspects, the degree of development of a country and the circumstances in which a country finds itself. 

In order to create a form of measurability and comparability, standards have been defined on the basis of which a company, or rather its business operations, can be assessed. Such an independent assessment entitles the holder to a certificate if the result is positive. That certificate guarantees partners in the chain that what has been assessed complies with the set standards. You could call it proof of trust. 

Transparency with a bit frosted windows 

To ensure good cooperation in the field of sustainability, it is important to realise which information benefits both the organisation and the chain without jeopardising its competitive position. This means that it must be possible to make data relating to the sustainability of companies and products available to the chain in which a company is located, without necessarily having to specifically name anyone. 

Of course, this can get in the way of credibility. For example, if a trading company states that it works with growers who are certified in accordance with certain standards, then as a buyer I have to assume that this is actually the case. At the same time, it is not desirable in every trading situation to disclose which suppliers you do business with. This tension requires a neutral player who can validate the data. The neutral party then makes the data available to the trading partner or the chain in which it is located, according to the wishes of the owner.  

Validation of data 

You must be able to trust that data. Validated data, which means data of which the source and value can be determined with certainty, is the key to a very transparent working method in which everyone can make choices about what is and is not shared. That process starts with getting information from the source. And the source is your business partner. It is the business partner who owns the information he or she wishes to provide to you, the customer. Now, I distinguish three forms of validation of the information that is provided. Indicated with 1, 2 or 3 stars. They are as follows. 

* Information that a party provides about itself. For example, a certificate issued by a certification institute. This is a representation of the reality of the party in question and is therefore, in principle, still susceptible to error and fraud. 

** The same information, but already viewed once and authorised by another party in the chain or authorised by you as a buyer, for example after consulting a portal of a certification institute. You actually assume and approve the factuality of the data obtained. Here too, however, there is a smaller risk of error. 

*** Although the data obtained is provided via the owner, it comes directly from the source, for example a certification institute. The data cannot be modified by anyone except the source. This is the most optimal form of data provision. 

Why are three stars valuable? 

If data is awarded three stars on validation by an independent platform such as Certifeye, and that data cannot be manipulated in any way by the owner of that data, then you are also able to provide anonymous transparency on the degree of sustainability in the chain. After all, the three stars based on the validated data have been determined independently and cannot be changed. None of the parties in the chain can influence those three stars. This enables you to show that you do business with suppliers who meet the requirements set by the customer, without disclosing the name and surname. 

The last crack in this approach can also be solved by making a link with an ERP system of an organisation. This provides insight into the data available at the time of the transaction and at the time of execution (time of purchase, receipt of goods and delivery). This can still be done anonymously. 

Link with the ERP, the basic administration of companies 

Certifeye has worked hard to enable a link with the basic administration of a company. This means that during the procurement process, up-to-date information about the supplier is available in the system. This can be certificate information, certification reports if the grower makes them available, but also things like a carbon footprint or an own digital questionnaire to assess a grower as a supplier. In short: the complete supplier assessment is available if required, and that secures the transaction in terms of quality and sustainability.  

Can it all go a step further?  

Yes, it can. Because ultimately, a certificate or a questionnaire completed by a supplier is a snapshot. And although you can assume that a day, week or month after the audit, a business operation will not suddenly look completely different, there is no certainty of this. So the question is whether we can’t synchronise the measurement of the current state of affairs with the daily operations of a company. You could call it an audit during the daily operations. Technology makes more and more possible and the speed at which technology is developing is so fast that thinking about the future can simply be about tomorrow and the day after that. Would you like to think along with us? 

Will you be there on 9 June? 

We would like to talk to you about sustainability and what tomorrow and the day after will look like. And also what transparency in the chain means to you, whether this is between suppliers and customers or between so-called coopetition. Would you like to share your views on this with professionals who, with the same objectives, are seeking their way in the landscape of quality, sustainability and transparency? We invite you to join us on 9 June for an open discussion on the future of data processing. 

Please note: This event takes place in Dutch. Read more about the Quality PopUp: Het borgen van Kwaliteit in de Keten.

Written by: Fred Vahlkamp, founder Certifeye

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