Sustainability is an on-going journey

Sustainability is rather like potatoes: you get more out of it than you put in. Sustainability initiates innovation, growth and continuity, and as such also offers us a future. The many positive reactions to our first sustainability report in the financial year 2014-2015 encouraged us in our determination to further raise awareness of issues internally and externally.

Thereby anchoring the most important objective of our sustainability mission within the organisation: convert knowledge into shared values, including the commitment and engagement of all our employees, growers, breeders and value chain partners. Because sustainability is about doing, about deeds; and this is an on-going journey. In the Sustainability Report we look at every aspect of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) within our value chains and in the world around us. The first annual report was published in a paperless format and available to read on the internet. The next report will appear in early 2016. For the financial year 2015/16, the intention is to begin with a ‘stakeholder consultation’ in order to get feedback on our sustainability policy as formulated so far.

At HZPC, sustainability is built upon three pillars: environmental stewardship, contribution to food security and community involvement.

Pillar 1: Environmental stewardship

A healthy planet is our company’s greatest asset. We want to protect natural resources and treat them with care. Specifically, we focus on:

  • Reducing the environmental impact of our own organisation.
  • Developing potato varieties that perform well in terms of sustainability.
  • Reducing transportation kilometres, by encouraging amongst other things local (‘local-for-local’) production.
  • Taking more responsibility within the chain.

Pillar 2: Contribution to food security

A growing world population and rising affluence is creating a growing global demand for food. Our potatoes are served up on the plates of people in over 80 countries. In the area of food security, we see it as our responsibility as potato breeders to develop modified varieties that in a relatively short time, under difficult climatic conditions and with little water, can provide a healthy staple food. This includes striving to make the potato crop less dependent on climate and soil conditions.

The sharing of knowledge to further optimise the growing of potatoes we see as an important contribution to a healthy diet. For example, we have been invited several times to give lectures at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to hand on knowledge about how we can ensure a larger part of the world can have access to potatoes, as a healthy foodstuff with high nutritional value.

Pillar 3: Community involvement

We also want to make a positive contribution to our social environment. We do this, among other things, by:

  • Accepting our social responsibilities when it come to trial fields.
  • Contributing to a healthy diet.
  • Nurturing relationships with all our stakeholders.
  • Supporting charities and good causes.

HZPC has test fields in various climate zones, where new varieties are tested based on local conditions. These test fields are also located in poverty-stricken areas. Child labour is a deeply rooted problem in these areas. One of our sustainability objectives is to prevent child labour at these trial fields. It is mandatory for test field operators to sign a declaration, stating that child labour is not taking place in the test fields.

Contributing to a healthy planet also means investing in a sustainable relationship with our growers and ensuring a fair distribution of revenues. We contribute to this through a competitive price for our growers.

In 2015, HZPC was involved in various charitable projects, including:

The Nationale Schooltuinenproject (National School Garden Project). The number of children participating last year was about 30,000 in some 1,000 primary schools. This successful project is an initiative of Spar Supermarkets to make children aware of healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle. HZPC contributes Annabelle and Innovator seed potatoes to the school garden pack. In addition, HZPC staff give presentations about the health benefits of potatoes in primary and secondary schools throughout the Netherlands.

On the tenth anniversary of HZPC UK, employees from the British Alzheimer’s Society cycled from the UK to the Netherlands. Amongst other places, the over 450 kilometre journey took in Alkmaar, Metslawier and Joure. Our British colleagues made a substantial contribution to this very worthy cause.

We support Stichting Stipulae (Stipulae Foundation), which aims to contribute to food security in developing countries in a sustainable way, particularly in Tanzania. To this end, the charity advises, amongst other things, on how to make better use of so-called agroforestry, a combination of indigenous trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. For example, a crop like Moringa Oleifera, which is found in Tanzania, not only has a high nutritional value. Using Moringa seeds you can also purify dirty water.

Feico Born, Productmanager Retail Fresh

“It’s the mission of HZPC to contribute to environmentally and socially responsible food production for a growing world population. Efficient and responsible use of land, water, fertiliser and crop protection are important themes here. ‘Low input, high output’ is a joint sustainability objective of HZPC along with our seed and ware potato growers.

The value of a variety within the Retail segment is largely determined by the yield per hectare that can actually be sold as ware potatoes. Since the requirements within Retail are so high, and the alternative sales channels for these varieties are often limited, this is an area that we are looking at closely. This includes yield stability, and we also want to see our varieties perform well in a shorter growing season. One Retail Fresh variety that meets all these strict criteria is, for example, Noblesse.

Our Retail Fresh varieties are grown in more than 40 countries and there are large differences between the growing areas. Our varieties portfolio must therefore offer a broad ability to adapt to different climatic conditions. HZPC also provides agronomic support itself and trains, for example, local agronomists and packers. Via this network we can gradually improve local growing, and in a number of countries progress has been made by providing ‘personal’ growing supervision. In this way we want to offer added value to our customers. Our team shares international knowledge and experience, something that growers also do amongst themselves. This creates a positive movement that encourages even more people in their efforts. We’re proud that we, as the HZPC team, are able to contribute to a sustainable future.”