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Sustainable business practices in the coco-coir industry

Sustainability is a topic that is becoming an increasingly important attribute of many organisations, in response to the significant climate and ecological challenges currently being faced. In addition, COVID-19 has highlighted the need for strengthening supply chains across the globe. Businesses, governments, civil society, consumers, growers, and funders have been challenged to take responsibility.

In the agricultural industry, there are a wide variety of perspectives on what sustainability means, and often, attention is given to a single attribute such as soil health, carbon emissions or plastics with high significance, without recognising that sustainability is a multitude of complex and interrelated factors. This article explores the perspectives on sustainability taken by Medicoir, who use sustainability in all its complexities to underpin their organisational structure and inform policies, activities, and targets throughout their supply of coco-coir substrates to commercial cannabis growers.

There is no silver bullet solution to achieve environmental sustainability. Instead, it is about considering trade-offs and decisions on both short- and long-term perspectives. To do this, the viability and impact of alternative solutions needs to be considered.

Medicoir delivers a more sustainable choice for sourcing coco-coir by recognising and addressing environmental challenges at every level of production. In sourcing and production, Medicoir produces a high-quality coir product produced from the husk of a coconut, an alternative to substrates from non-renewable sources. In processing, challenges presented by water, drying and plastic use are addressed by taking a forward-thinking and innovative approach. A waste-water management and purification plant has been established, a bio-mass boiler powered dryer installed, and bio-degradable plastic bags launched in 2019. In addition, achieving ISO 14001:2015 gives independent assurance of Medicoir’s environmental management strategies.

Medicoir recognises that a business’s most important asset is its team. Sustainable practices are embedded in the company’s culture, enabling employees to have a positive work life balance that supports their health and mental wellbeing, especially during challenging times such as these. All Medicoir factories have a strict no child labour policy, set working hours and regular, ample rest periods. Supervisors are constantly present to ensure that health and safety measures are always met. All employees receive a wage that is above the industry average, a healthcare scheme, meals at work, and transport to and from the factory.

Social sustainability can also extend beyond that of the organisation. Community engagement activities are important for delivering public recognition and support of more sustainable farming as well as building goodwill amongst local communities. Medicoir supports local communities by engaging with long-term initiatives to improve the local infrastructure and schools and supports projects that play a central part of the communities’ culture, for example sponsorship of a temple and an orphanage.

A sustainability solution is not defined only by its contribution to environmental objectives, it must also be economically viable over the long-term. The economics of sustainable farming are challenging, and the truth is that there is price pressure on cannabis growers by their customers. Many may find it difficult to afford to pay a higher price during production, even if this is at a detriment to their environmental impact. Medicoir raises awareness of sustainability issues at an industry and consumer level to drive forward support for more sustainable farming. They collaborate within the sector and work with peers to effect positive change in order to present a united front when working with the government. Overall, Medicoir has a strong perspective of sustainability, and as a result, makes significant contributions towards the shared goal of achieving and supporting more sustainable agriculture. Sustainability is not restricted to a single criteria or outcome, but incorporated into every decision and activity, resulting in an outcome-based, integrated, and people-led approach that contributes to the core idea of sustainability.

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