- Written by Hannah Dunne
Instead of avoiding imported blooms, we should be pushing Florverde® flower sales to boost best-practise, social welfare and sustainability in the countries that need it most.
We met Brian last November, high up in the foothills of the Savannah de Bogotá, as he played on a small climbing frame with friends, set against the incredible backdrop of the Colombian Andes. Brian is ten years old and his big dream is to be an Olympic swimmer. He's here because he was forced into child labour on Bogotá's public transport system, but thanks to flower exports he's now enrolled into a programme that aims to cultivate peace in the family, and it has brought him to this beautiful, safe and friendly space.
This is just one programme, to prevent and eradicate child labour, which is funded through flower exports from the Social Responsibility Direction of Asocolflores.
Led by the Florverde® Sustainable Flowers team, the Florverde® stamp of approval strives for real change in the communities surrounding Colombia's flower farms, but they need help. Ximena Franco of Florverde® explained, "We need your support as buyers, because you need to know what Florverde® growers are doing to improve the quality of life for their communities and leading the way in how it should be done. Only if every buyer – be it importer, wholesaler or florist - thinks Florverde® when they place their Colombian order can we make sure the right thing is done and that change happens faster."
The Florverde® team aren't blind to the fact that sadly, as in all countries, there are still some flower farms that aren't up to scratch, there is still worker abuse, particularly amongst women who are often subject to discrimination and harassment and that there are still farms that aren't working to the right environmental standards. It isn't commonplace and in the UK we are probably far stricter on who we buy from than any other country in the world but for Ximena even one farm that gets it wrong is one farm too many.
Ximena says, "We are doing everything we can in Colombia to stamp out bad practices but together we can create a critical mass to educate the market, and that's why we want ambassadors to help us inspire others to use Florverde® as a tool."
Cue UK-based florist Jim Williamson and wholesaler Chris Wolfe (pictured above). They were both with us in Colombia and immediately jumped at the chance to become ambassadors for Florverde®.
Jim Williamson runs 11 flower shops across Scotland, and with that pretty hefty buying power, he went to Colombia with the aim of bettering his business strategies but came away with far more than he ever expected.
Jim said, “I had no idea what to expect before our trip to a Florverde-funded school, but was totally blown away by the experience. It’s so easy to concentrate on running your own business and doing your own thing so you forget where your flowers come from and the fact that there are people at every bit of the chain.
“Now, when doing the orders for our shops, I’m reminded that buying certain flowers can have a huge impact on people on the other side of the world. Our staff are clued up on Florverde and what it means, and we’re proud to be ambassadors spreading the word across Scotland.”
Chris, who heads up SouthEast Flowers in Kent, has been a Colombian flower convert for many years but this is the first time she's been involved in what goes on behind-the-scenes, and she's been blown away.
Chris explains, "I'm exceptionally honoured to be involved. I completely believe in the work that Ximena and her team are doing, especially the schools projects. Having been there, it really does hit home as we saw the difference it's making. We go about our day-to-day lives in a little bubble and it's easy to forget all of this stuff is going on in the background. But whilst you're buying your Colombian flowers from a Florverde® accredited grower, you know your money is going to these schools.
"To meet those children was one of the most emotional things I've ever done, it was such a moving experience. I came away thinking I must tell my customers, because like me, they didn't know either, and the ones we've told so far have been chuffed!
"As ambassadors we can raise awareness, even just giving a big up to customers who buy Florverde® flowers. It just puts a different tack on what we're doing, so we support it all the way."
FLORVERDE FAST FACTS
• Florverde® Sustainable Flowers is an independent social and environmental standard for the flower sector in Colombia.
• FSF develops, promotes and implements responsible codes of conduct, standards and sustainable flower growing practises in a country shipping out over $1.34 billion worth of blooms.
• 40% of flowers exported from Colombia are Florverde® certified, with approximately 1.3 billion stems and 2,054 hectares of land are certified as FSF each year.
• Florverde® Sustainable Flowers are no more expensive than non-certified flowers.
• All FSF certified flowers are marked with the Florverde® Sustainable Flowers label.
• One of Florverde®'s goals is for consumers to recognise the FSF logo.
WHAT CAN I DO AS A FLORIST?
• Urge your wholesaler to buy Florverde®, and get them to do the same with their importers.
• Find the list of Florverde® certified farms here, and when buying, pick out those you recognise.
• Check out Florverde®'s range of images, posters and videos and share on your own social media pages – your customers will love it too.
• When a customer is interested in or buys your Florverde® flowers, TELL THEM! You could even print out tags or write labels on their price tags.
Tainted by bad press and the constant stress to avoid imports, it's easy for a florist to feel bad about buying from abroad, but by making sure you stock Florverde® flowers, sharing with your customers and urging your wholesaler to do the same you can make a meaningful change.
Next, read our full report on the magic of the Colombian flower industry and check out our favourite 37 varieties spotted in Colombia.