AFE Education & Resources for Sustainability in the Floral Industry

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) has announced a new special Sustainability Project to provide education and resources to the floral industry. Partnering with like-minded organizations, the Endowment’s new project aims to create usable assets, identify new research needed, and close the gap in making sustainability an accessible initiative for all segments of the industry.

By identifying and understanding the big picture of what’s already out there, what’s working, and what’s not, the Endowment aims to compile new resources, share success stories, bring together experts in both academia and industry, and provide action plans for businesses large and small. Industry certifications have already provided an incredible amount of information for those seeking to validate their sustainability practices. Building upon these, AFE plans to create a library of resources that can be used by all to complement their current efforts.Consumers are seeking and driving the demand for more sustainable products and business practices. In the past five years, these sustainability messages, products, and practices have multiplied exponentially. This certainly applies to the floriculture industry, both in large and small operations across the country. This new initiative will directly help growers, suppliers, retailers, and all in-between to advance their businesses and learn of the most successful practices being conducted. AFE is being progressive and proactive in its desire to be the lead supporter of sustainable efforts as well as be the point source of information and education for our industry.
The Endowment has enlisted the help of expert researchers and industry advisors Dr. Brian Jackson and Dr. Melinda Knuth of North Carolina State University. Both will oversee this project for AFE to work with industry and other expert researchers to collect, analyze, and create outputs to streamline sustainability efforts.
Dr. Knuth states, “This project is not only timely but essential. Consumers are seeking, and driving, demand for sustainable products and business practices.”
The initial two-year project will be conducted in three phases – Phase I – Discovery and assessment of the adoption and application of sustainability practices being done at all business size levels. Phase I focuses primarily on written documentation of sustainability; Phase 2 and 3 will be a physical and communicative measurement of sustainability practices, barriers of entry, the opportunity for expansion, and the dynamic nature of how sustainability is utilized in business. Applicable resources, SOP’s, and call-to-action plans will be created and made available to all industry members.
“Outputs of this project can provide practical guidelines that growers and other floriculture supply chain members can use to identify environmental, economic, and social sustainable practices that can be incorporated directly into their businesses,” adds Dr. Jackson.
The second and third phases include interviews to evaluate directional efforts of doors that open to sustainability practices and causes for opportunities, in addition to a floriculture sustainability website that houses all materials. Experts from each arena of sustainability will come together for roundtables to create sustainability goals, checklists, and guides for businesses to pull from in various fields (lighting, greenhouse structures, IPM, water, growing media, packaging, recycling, and more).
While this initial project is a two-year project, ending in June 2024, it sets the stage and base for ongoing work in sustainability as it continues to evolve. AFE is committed to continuing its work on sustainability well into the future to provide guidance and support to sustainability efforts.
The Endowment is not alone in funding this forward-thinking initiative; industry leaders Ball Horticultural CompanyMayesh Wholesale FloristSmithers-Oasis, and Tagawa Greenhouses have all signed on as the major sponsors of this project. Level II sponsors are being sought to support additional and upcoming work on this project, and Kennicott Brothers leads the way for this sponsorship effort. All sponsors of the Sustainability Project will have a seat on the newly formed Sustainability Task Force for the roundtable meetings and will review and receive data prior to it being published.

Pat Dahlson, CEO of Mayesh Wholesale Florist and Member of AFE’s Executive Committee, notes, “The Endowment is taking on this momentous initiative for the benefit of the industry as a whole. Through collaboration with many segments of the industry we know we can accomplish this.”
Industry involvement in the round tables and collection of data is imperative to provide impactful resources and guides. AFE is asking for information to be shared on current best practices, challenges, and other areas of sustainability that can be included in the analysis of data for output.
“Smithers-Oasis fully supports this project as it will provide important sustainability resources to the industry. We are excited to be part of this project and to share what we’ve learned so that other businesses can build on the work that has already been done and combine their efforts to create a more sustainable industry as a whole,” says Robin Kilbride, President and CEO of Smithers-Oasis.
Following Phase 1, AFE expects to release preliminary information in early 2023. Stay tuned through and social media. For more information or to get involved, please contact AFE’s Executive Director Debi Chedester at