NZ produce industry ushers in Sustainability Guidelines to meet pressing UN deadline

1st June 2023

NZ produce industry ushers in Sustainability Guidelines to meet pressing UN deadline

This week United Fresh launches its Sustainability Guidelines, a significant body of work designed to assist fresh fruit and vegetable value chain organisations throughout Aotearoa New Zealand to make meaningful change towards a sustainable future.

In 2015 our government joined 192 other nations in signing a non-binding commitment to meet the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a global blueprint intended to usher in peace and prosperity for all the people of the world by 2030.

Since 2015, little discernible progress has been made at government level to determine how Kiwi industries should transform their business practices to meet the SDGs. The United Fresh Sustainability Guidelines are set to change that for the fresh produce industry by providing an industry-specific roadmap for the entire fresh produce value chain.

Dr Hans Maurer, Chair of the United Fresh Technical Advisory Group which authored the Guidelines says the industry must act now to make changes on its own terms, rather than wait for government intervention.

“The government will need to take action to meet the SDGs. When they ask what our industry’s contribution to sustainability is, we’ll need to provide some serious answers,” he says.

“The alternative will be government-imposed standard practices which might not be the right fit for our industry. Each of us is the expert in our own field, let’s take the opportunity to create practical changes based on that intimate knowledge of the variables of each part of the fresh produce value chain.”

The United Fresh Sustainability Guidelines provide a comprehensive breakdown of the SDGs and align them with the ‘Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand’ developed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).

“The Indicators are a great strategic starting point for the fresh produce industry to explore what progress towards the SDGs might look like but they’re not specific enough to be applicable in industry specific situations,” says Dr Maurer.

“In developing the United Fresh Sustainability Guidelines, we’ve taken the Indicators and broken them down further to show businesses throughout the fresh produce value chain how to take realistic steps towards sustainability.”

Dr Maurer notes that, in many cases, work towards achieving the SDGs is already underway.

“Working through the Guidelines isn’t about making a list of shortcomings. A huge amount of work has already been done by just about every business in the fresh produce industry and we’re rightly proud of those changes,” he says.

“The Guidelines offer businesses a chance to reflect on their sustainability journey to date, to celebrate their achievements and set exciting new goals within a global framework. I encourage every member of the industry to make a start on this vital work, we’re already halfway to the SDG deadline, let’s not waste the next 7 years.

“Now is our chance to take charge of our own sustainability destiny and play a part in leaving the planet a better place for the next generation of growers, packhouse operators, wholesalers, retailers and consumers,” says Dr Maurer.

Dr Hans Maurer

                                                     Dr Hans Maurer, Chair, United Fresh Technical Advisory Group