07 Jun 2023

How to promote sustainable horticulture?

Garden retail stores play an important role in promoting sustainable horticultural practices. The Horticultural Trade Association supports the industry's sustainability efforts  through insightful research, practical guides and e-learning for retail staff. 

David Denny, the Director of Research and Insights at the HTA sheds light on the industry's commitment to sustainability. He also shares key trends and insights identified through HTA's research, emphasising the importance of sustainability to meet customers' expectations. 


  1. What is the role of a garden retail store in promoting sustainable horticulture practices?

Garden centres and nurseries have been at the fore of promoting sustainable horticulture, both in terms of their operations and the advice and information they give to gardeners. A good example of this was work between the HTA and the Garden Centre Association to help gardeners transition towards peat-free growing media.

This included development of e-learning for retail staff to help them advise gardeners on how to succeed with peat-free compost, and information for consumers on what to look for to ensure their growing media has been responsibly sourced. This latter initiative has been carried forward by growing media manufacturers into the Responsible Sourcing Scheme for Growing Media.



  1. What are some key trends and insights in the garden retail industry that the HTA has identified through its research?

We’ve identified that consumers and gardeners have high levels of trust in garden retailers, and feel very positive about the environmental, social and health benefits of the plants and garden products they buy. That makes it especially important for the garden industry to ‘walk-the-walk’ in terms of sustainability to meet gardeners’ expectations.


  1. How does the HTA support the development of sustainable horticulture practices within the industry?

We work with our members to support them in developing their own sustainability plans, and have developed a Sustainability Roadmap for the industry. This provides a ‘framework’ to support businesses in focusing their sustainability plans on issues particularly relevant for horticulture, for instance water resilience in irrigation. We also provide case studies and ‘how to’ guides to support members with either quick wins on sustainability, or major transformational projects such as reservoir construction of solar panel implementation.


  1. What are the key research projects conducted by the HTA?

We keep a close eye on how the different types of gardeners’ attitudes are changing to help our members keep up to date with changing attitudes. That really helps us to help our members by providing insights into what makes different types of gardener tick. We also collect data on the industry to support the association’s positions to government on a range of issues, not least on opportunities to collaborate on supporting the industry with sustainability.


  1. What are some of the challenges that garden retail stores face in implementing sustainable horticulture practices, and how does the HTA help addressing those challenges?

A lot of it is about knowing how to get started. We provide guides for members on how to develop a sustainability plan, but also support reference sites among our membership who support other members with practical information and ideas. Quite often these sustainability reference sites will lead sessions at the conferences and webinars we put on for members.


  1. Can you provide examples of successful sustainability initiatives implemented by garden retail stores?

Blue Diamond's new compost bag recycling scheme and the sustainable and environmental policy by the Gardens Group.


  1. What role does the HTA play in advocating for policies and regulations that support the garden retail industry?

We liaise closely with government on issues such as packaging waste, peat and water use. We’re working to ensure that policies and regulations support both the industry’s economic growth and also its contribution to our environment and society. It’s also important to understand that the plants and trees we produce as an industry make an enormous contribution to our environment and to mitigating the impacts of climate change.

We work with government to try and ensure that policy areas such as planning and urban development take into account the benefits of green spaces and plants, and that ‘system thinking’ is used in developing government policy. So to give an example, everyone would agree that tree planting and urban greening initiatives are of huge benefit, but in developing those initiatives and plans we work with government to ensure that the whole ‘system’ that supplies these trees is supported, for instance by ensuring planning and incentives are in place to support growers of these plants and trees expanding output to support the targets.


    8. How can garden retail stores leverage the research and insights provided by the HTA to improve their business operations?

HTA members get access to all of the market research and trends reports we produce, as well as regular updates on the state of trade and the wider market environment. It’s a great ‘one-stop-shop’ for keeping up to date with what’s going on, whether it’s a quick look at how sales performed in a given month or a deep dive into market trends over the next five years.


    9. Why is it important to be at Glee? Can you tell us a little bit about your live seminar at the show?

It’s a great show to see some of the trends coming to life and manifesting as new products and services to meet gardeners’ needs. Most of the new products on show are going to have their roots in businesses really understanding their customers and markets and the trends we’re seeing. So along with the obvious importance of Glee as a trade show to support buying, it’s a great chance to reflect on and digest what’s around the corner in terms of emerging customer wants and needs.


David Denny, the Director of Research and Insights at the HTA, will be speaking live at Glee on Tuesday, 27 June at 11am. You're welcome to attend. Get your free ticket now!


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