The team members of Westerlay are fortunate to live and work in one of America’s loveliest places: Carpinteria, along the California central coast. From the beginning, we have recognized that growing our high-quality orchids, which bring beauty and inspiration to many people, confers upon us a responsibility to do so in a way that preserves and protects this region for future generations.
That is why we not only built Westerlay’s greenhouses from the ground up with sustainability and longevity in mind, but have consistently—and enthusiastically—complied with all local and state environmental regulations. More recently, however, we decided to hold our company to an even higher, international standard. Since January 2012, Westerlay has adhered to a top global sustainability benchmark established by a non-profit Dutch agency: the Milieu Project Sierteelt MPS-ABC certification program, holding our environmental practices to the same strict standards as more than 4,000 committed horticultural companies around the world.
Through MPS-ABC, we measure and record our use of fertilizers, fungicides, and fossil fuels, and monitor the recycling of water, cardboard, and plastics. Like each participant, Westerlay is also subject to an annual audit by one of MPS’s international inspectors. We are extremely proud that our minimal use of agricultural chemicals and rigid recycling efforts have ranked Westerlay at the top of our peer group. For these achievements, Westerlay has been awarded MPS’s highest “A” rating.
The Milieu Project Sierteelt (the Environment Project for Horticulture) is a non-profit agency founded in 1993 in the Netherlands by a group of greenhouse growers and government officials, with the goal of improving environmental performance, enhancing communications with consumers, and creating a “triple bottom-line” balance between People (social aspects), Planet (the environment) and Profit (results). MPS quickly became the national standard, prompting wholesalers and major retailers in other European countries to begin requiring this certification from their suppliers. Most of the 4,000-plus participating growers in more than 55 countries are still in Europe, although the past several years have seen an increase in Latin and North American members.
Although MPS is still relatively unknown in the United States (providing limited public relations benefits), we choose to participate because we strongly believe it is the best tool for us to improve our environmental performance. The benchmarking aspect of MPS supports Westerlay to be consistently accountable for our sustainable practices, while the annual audit ensures that our certification is not “greenwashed”—so our efforts can’t be discredited by other, less conscientious, participants.
We understand that being a responsible corporate citizen goes beyond curtailing chemical usage. Therefore, we have taken the first steps towards achieving the MPS Generally Accepted Practices (GAP) certification: a series of protocols outlining best practices for employee safety, hazardous materials handling, emergency response, and other workplace issues. We expect to implement all requirements by the end of 2013.