Friend of month – July

In Have your say on July… Stan Pohmer from USA!

I would encourage the supply chain to be conscious of sustainability in their purchasing and operations for a few reasons. First, it’s the right thing to do. Secondly, by considering sustainability in your decision-making, you can make better decisions. 

As featured friend of july, we spoke with Stan Pohmer, CEO of Pohmer Consulting Group, Mentor and Advisor to the perishable and seasonal industries. We discuss about sustainability and its role in the flower industry and customer’s behavior, which could be guided to help them take the right choice and know why. 

Florverde® Sustainable Flowers: What does a sustainable label mean to you and to consumers?

Stanley Pohmer: There’s a definite difference in how I perceive the meaning of a sustainability label and how a consumer does.
Being actively involved with sustainability initiatives in the perishable industries (including floral), I am familiar with the pillars of people, plants, planet, and profit…and the attributes of each individual label and the stories behind them. However, the average consumer is relatively uneducated about these various labels and what they stand for; most fail to understand ‘what’s behind the curtain’ of a sustainability label. In many cases, sustainability to the consumer is simply a logo.
With the exception of ‘Fairtrade’ and ‘Rainforest Alliance’… two labels that have invested a lot of resources (time, money and effort) in marketing and educating the retailers and consumers who shop their retailers…most consumers wouldn’t be able to explain what a specific label stands for. And what consumers don’t understand, they ignore or misconstrue.
That said, consumers do relate to concepts that they believe benefit them personally, themes such as ‘local’ and ‘organic’ and ‘pesticide free’.  To make an impact on the consumer and their purchase decisions, sustainability initiatives must figure out how to effectively connect with the consumer in terms that they can relate to.

FSF: Is it important to customers choosing products that have grown in a sustainable way?

SP: Consumers care about things that they can understand, connect with, and that benefit themselves and their psyches. As mentioned earlier, most consumers don’t relate to the term ‘sustainable’ because they don’t understand it, it’s too ethereal. However, they do understand and relate to some of the elements of sustainability, such as the environmental and ecological conditions their products are grown in (i.e. organic, pesticide-free), and the way employees who grow or produce their products are treated.

Consumers have difficulty connecting to abstract theories of what sustainability is, but do connect with concrete stories and examples that illustrate sustainable practices and activities, and these are becoming more important in helping the consumer make conscious decisions on why the purchase one product versus another, or why they shop one retailer instead of another competitor.
One subject that rarely gets considered is the reality that people really don’t shop sustainability labels; rather they choose retailers that complement and support the same values, morals, and ethics that they themselves share. A sustainability label(s) will help the retailer position their image, add gravitas to their consumer perception and help them tell their story about who they are and what they stand for.

FSF: Is sustainability important for supply chain members? If so, why?

SP: I believe in the end goals and benefits of sustainability efforts and initiatives. As a result, I would encourage the supply chain to be conscious of sustainability in their purchasing and operations for a few reasons. First, it’s the right thing to do. Secondly, by considering sustainability in your decision-making, you can make better decisions. For example, if you focus on reducing your carbon footprint, you will make smarter decisions and become more efficient. Last, sustainability can be a component of your value message that you deliver to your customers and end-consumers; all other things being equal, sustainability could be your ‘tipping point’.

FSF: Is there any relationship between competitiveness and sustainability?

SP: In the food category, it’s been proven that consumers will pay somewhat more for products that they believe provide more benefits to them (i.e. wellness, more nutritious, ‘local’, ‘organic’) versus conventionally grown products.
However, it’s been harder to prove that consumers will pay more for non-food products that are marketed as being sustainable. That said, including sustainability as part of your marketing story to the retailer and his/her consumer can be a significant differentiator, especially to those consumers who are already predisposed to prefer more sustainable foodstuffs.
FSF: What will be your predictions for the coming 5 years regarding sustainability at the flower industry?
SP: As the marketplace consolidates, both at the producer and retailer levels, sustainability will become more accepted, expected, and more mainstream. Consumers will become more knowledgeable about what constitutes sustainability and retailers will provide the consumers with point of purchase tools that will easily compare the relative levels of sustainability of one product on the shelf to the one right next to it, helping the consumer to make more considered purchase decisions.
The U.S. marketplace has lagged its European cousins in the sustainability arena; there’s no doubt that in the next 5 years, the U.S. will make major inroads to catch up.

That’s all for now with Stan. We would like to thank him for sharing his inputs with us.

What does a sustainable label means to you? we’d love to hear it! please let us know us your insights about this topic to know from your experience and how you make the difference!