Developing a methodology for environmental footprinting of horticultural products

Horticultural products are an important and broad product category. However, until recently, no methodology was available to assess their environmental footprint beyond climate change effects.

Royal FloraHolland and Fresh Produce Centre initiated a consortium – with PRé as one of the research partners – to develop a comprehensive horticultural footprinting method. This new method, the Hortifootprint category rules, is based on the European Commission’s product environmental footprinting category rules.


Established over 100 years ago, Royal FloraHolland is a cooperation that organizes the international marketplace for flowers and plants for growers and buyers. Fresh Produce Centre represents the interests of businesses involved in the sale and marketing of fruit and vegetables and is a source of knowledge and inspiration. The association has around 320 members. They specialize in the domestic wholesale, import, export, treatment, processing, packaging, storage, and transshipment of fruit and vegetables. They represent 80% of the market.


Consumers increasingly want to know the environmental impact of products, to make green purchases. Horticultural products such as flowers, potted plants, fruits, and vegetables are no exception. In addition, horticultural products are also a part of many processed foods. Retailers, consumers, and manufacturers of processed foods also want to make informed choices about the environmental footprint of these horticultural products.

Since 2012, the PAS 2050-1:2012 methodology for horticultural products has been available to calculate the climate change impacts of horticulture. However, this method does not include other environmental impacts, such as those caused by water, land, or pesticide use. In a consortium initiated by Royal FloraHolland, Fresh Produce Centre, and Wageningen Economic Research, PRé and others developed a robust and comprehensive methodology for environmental footprinting of horticultural products: the Hortifootprint category rules (HFCR). It was developed to satisfy the demands of all value chain actors and to provide consistent and credible information on the sustainability of horticultural products.  


The Hortifootprint category rules methodology was published on July 20, 2020. It mirrors the product environmental footprint category rules (PEFCR), defined by the European Commission during the Environmental Footprint (EF) pilot phase. The Hortifootprint method includes all life cycle stages of horticultural products, from cradle to grave. It adopted the EF impact assessment method, so it covers a wide array of environmental themes such as climate change, water scarcity, land use, and toxicity.

The development of Hortifootprint received co-financing from TopSector Horticulture & Starting Materials. Other parties involved were ABN AMRO Bank, Blonk Consultants, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, Glastuinbouw Nederland, MPS, Rabobank, and Stichting Benefits of Nature.

The development of an environmental footprint methodology for horticultural products helps the sector to materialise the current effort it puts into sustainability. It helps a grower to identify within its supply chain how to improve its environmental impact and, doing so, to learn more about its own impact. This is a joint initiative of the Fresh Produce Centre and Royal FloraHolland because fruit, vegetables, flowers and pot plants all have in common the cultivation and fresh logistics and collectively strive to a sustainable future.

Daan van Empel, Food Safety & Sustainability, Fresh Produce Centre


With the release of the Hortifootprint category rules, there is now one set of rules – developed and endorsed by the sector – to assess the environmental footprint of horticultural products. That means individual growers can follow the same rules. That is good news for other actors in the value chain, such as consumers, retailers, and traders.

The method also decreases the costs of doing an assessment, since the thinking has already been done and documented in the methodology. Individual growers can use their results to identify improvement opportunities and to monitor the environmental performance of their products over time.

I’d like to thank Marisa Vieira from PRé for her professional and also kind attitude. Always well prepared and always intrinsically motivated to be ahead of the game, helpful and with in-depth knowledge on the subjects.

Piet Briët, Sustainability Manager, Royal FloraHolland

To learn more about the project, you can watch our recorded video presentation.

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