In the early 1980s, crop protection product warehouse fires posed significant environmental and financial risks in Canada. Many products were being stored in inadequate facilities with poor building quality, low levels of spill containment and emergency preparedness, leading to an average of two fires per year.
As an industry, Canada’s crop protection companies agreed this could not continue and led the way to the implementation of crop protection product warehousing standards– the first of many initiatives under a program now called Stewardship First.
This program promotes the responsible use of crop protection products throughout their lifecycle from their inception to endof use. All member companies of CropLife Canada are required to take an active role in various Stewardship First initiatives.
Results are impactful. For example, since the full implementation of warehousing standards in 1995, there have only been five isolated fires in about 1,800 warehouses nationwide – a reduction of 90 percent.
Crop protection products are stored in dyked, properly ventilated facilities with cement floors and must meet rigorous health, safety, emergency response and building code protocols. Facilities are audited and re-certified every two years by one of 30 approved, third-party auditors. Importantly, CropLife Canada members enforce the warehousing standards through a “no certification/no ship” policy: companies will only ship products to distributors or retailers that are in full compliance with the code.
This type of industry-driven and -funded initiative characterizes StewardshipFirst. Member companies embrace their corporate responsibility as it is critical to their continued success as businesses and for every part of the value chain. StewardshipFirst folds many stakeholders into the process: crop protection companies, agricultural retailers, growers, government and food companies.
The program’s success has led other national CropLife organizations to adopt it. For example, CropLife Australia and CropLife America launched their own versions of Stewardship- First in 2012 and 2014, respectively. Like the original program in Canada, both of the newer programs promote the responsible use of crop protection products throughout their lifecycle and use StewardshipFirst as a banner under which to group stewardship activities.
A standout example of a StewardshipFirst program is the CleanFarms initiative, established by CropLife Canada in 1989 to manage crop protection product container recycling and later in the 1990s the disposal of obsolete stocks. CleanFarms has established over 1,000 collection points for empty crop protection product containers nationally as well as set up hundreds of depots for growers to safely dispose of outdated or unwanted products free of charge. Since CleanFarms was launched in Canada, more than 100 million empty containers have been collected and recycled, and more than two million kilograms of obsolete products have been safely disposed of via high-temperature incineration.
CleanFarms, like the other StewardshipFirst programs, is an industry-led and -funded initiative developed in collaboration with the entire value chain, including government regulatory bodies. Such teamwork is a critical component to the success of StewardshipFirst as it allows the industry to adapt in a proactive manner to rapidly changing technologies.
Seed treatment technology, for example, is an emerging innovation in Canada. Working with stakeholders across the industry, CropLife Canada released voluntary commercial seed treatment standards in 2014 to proactively address issues such as appropriate product warehousing, operator safety in treatment facilities and proper waste management. Companies that treat seed can now elect to be audited according to these new standards as an educational step to better understand their operation’s potential risks; there are no repercussions for failing the initial audit. However, by 2017, companies will be required to pass the audit and StewardshipFirst members will help it enforce it through a “no ship” policy.
StewardshipFirst is dedicated to real, tangible and actionable initiatives for the crop protection industry’s products throughout their lifecycle. Our members are committed to the responsible management of their products as they seek to help farmers worldwide produce safe, abundant and high-quality food for all.
Russel Hurst is executive director of sustainability and stewardship at CropLife Canada in Etobicoke, Ontario.
Stewardship First America
The success of CropLife Canada’s StewardshipFirst brand is catching. Three years ago CropLife Australia launched its Stewardshipfirst program and last year Stewardship First America was set up by the CropLife Foundation, the research and stewardship arm of CropLife America.
“The industry is doing a lot for crop protection management and we want to be able to tell a story of what it’s doing with examples of good stewardship around the country,” says Sarah McLallen, executive director for the CropLife Foundation. “StewardshipFirst is a banner under which to pool resources, publicize events and advocate with state and federal regulators.”
By default, all members of CropLife America have a commitment to stewardship but they also have the opportunity to participate in StewardshipFirst.
Participants must annually pledge to support the U.S. program’s six guiding principles:
1. Optimize the use of natural resources for public good.
2. Work to continually improve and modernize stewardship practices.
3. Use the best available science as a basis for decision-making.
4. Reinforce proper use and disposal information for crop protection materials.
5. Participate actively in crop protection industry stewardship efforts.
6. Provide education for regulators and key stakeholders on the voluntary industry stewardship.
Program compliance is then assessed based on evaluations of company stewardship practices in three areas: responsible product use education, warehouse accreditation and container management.