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IFPA updates 2024 sustainability initiatives

tamara ifpa

Washington, DC – With sustainability one of the International Fresh Produce Association’s BB #:378962 strategic priorities for 2024, the organization continues to develop new resources, education, advocacy and opportunities for its members and industry to engage on this important issue.  

Following the recent Hort Connections Conference (a collaboration between AUSVEG and IFPA Australia-New Zealand) in Melbourne, Australia, IFPA A-NZ Managing Director Ben Hoodless remarked that “sustainability is a subject where association members and industry have had significant conversations on issues like sustainability values across the supply chain, financial constraints, and the need for education and collaborative work, with IFPA Vice President of Sustainability Tamara Muruetagoiena serving as a valuable resource.” 

During a Hort Connections plenary session, Muruetagoiena discussed the various influences on sustainability in the global fresh produce and floral community. 

Regulatory Pressures  

In response to onerous new proposals around produce packaging/stickering in Australia, Canada, the European Union, and New Zealand, IFPA founded the Alliance for the Sustainable Packaging for Food to engage with regulators, governments, researchers, and civil society organizations to ensure regulations achieve environmental sustainability without compromising food safety and product quality, and without increasing carbon footprint of the industry. 

“What’s interesting is that consumers’ concerns about the environmental impact of packaging are spread almost equally among a number of factors, ranging from air and water pollution to deforestation to marine litter,” Muruetagoiena noted. “Our goal is to continue to use the best science and innovation to create solutions that improve the environmental performance of plastics, increase recyclability and compostability, and discover efficiencies within the system for reusable packaging.” 

Environmental, Social, and Economic Change Drivers 

She also reflected on IFPA’s participation in COP28 in late 2023, where agriculture was included for the first time in the United Nations’ climate plans. In her view, the integration of food systems into climate plans signified a shift from the exclusive focus on fossil fuel phaseout and opened up a realm of opportunities and challenges for the agricultural sector, particularly those engaged in climate-smart agriculture. 

“Regenerative agriculture is one sustainability practice that has garnered the attention of both retailers and consumers. Two-thirds of shoppers told us they are very or somewhat interested in this method,” Muruetagoiena said. “Whether it’s through no-till or reduced-till cultivation, the use of cover crops and crop rotation, drip irrigation, or integrated pest management practices, there’s been a growing public interest in how we grow the most nutritious food on the planet but also how we take care of the planet in doing so.”  

Consumer Expectations 

“Multiple studies show that the health of the planet is one of the top important and top sustainability-related concerns in food and beverage for consumers globally; however, there is confusion about eco-friendliness in terms of labeling and packaging,” she remarked.  

IFPA research has found that fresh produce outranks all other food industries when it comes to being associated with sustainability and that the top 5 sustainability-related issues on consumers’ minds are water conservation, energy efficiency, recyclable packaging, zero waste, and healthy soils. 

“I believe our industry has a tremendous opportunity to become more intentional and visible in marketing and communicating the many aspects of its environmental stewardship and care of our planet to consumers. This is supported by an IFPA study that shows consumers believe our industry to be trustworthy but could do more when it comes to transparency in production methods,” Muruetagoiena noted.  

In August, IFPA will host Sustainability Summits in Melbourne, Australia (August 13) and Auckland, New Zealand (August 15).  

“By increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, we can not only improve global health, but we can also decrease the environmental footprint of our diets. Members and industry can look to IFPA to establish best practices and guidance to the fresh produce industry specific to sustainable agriculture as we seek to grow a healthier world,” she said. 

For more details on IFPA sustainability efforts, visit the Sustainability section of the organization’s website. 

About the International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) 

The International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA)?is the largest and most diverse international association serving the entire fresh produce and floral supply chain and the only to seamlessly integrate world-facing advocacy and industry-facing support. We exist to bring the industry together to create a vibrant future for all. We grow our member’s prosperity by conducting advocacy; connecting people and ideas; and offering guidance that allows us all to?take action?with purpose and confidence.