Retailers will play a key role in ongoing efforts to reduce the amount of peat in UK retail bagged growing media.
So says environmental sustainability expert Dr Alan Knight in his final report as chairman of Defra's Sustainable Growing Media Taskforce, in which he highlights the significant progress achieved by the taskforce's working groups to date, and identifies the remaining challenges to tackling further peat reduction.
Crucially, Dr Knight believes that "the approach taken by retailers will be the show changer", and he encourages a new level of collaboration between retailers to set the pace of change.
The Horticultural Trades Association and Growing Media Association have welcomed the report, and say that their Growing Media Initiative, which provides an existing mechanism for retailers to join, looks likely to be a critical body to take forward many of the taskforce's suggestions.
The conclusions of the taskforce, according to the HTA, "demonstrate the importance of the GMI in providing industry-led progress towards more sustainable growing media".
Membership of the GMI provides companies with access to a recognised brand that assures the consumer that they are environmentally conscious and committed to reducing the use of peat.
Dr Knight's findings suggest 17 consensus points on which members of the taskforce have broadly agreed. The report acknowledges three pillars of sustainability - environmental, social and economic - and recognises that "the transition to sustainable growing media needs to be economically viable".
HTA policy manager Gary Scroby said: "We will be discussing the report in further detail with our members in the weeks to come. However, our initial reaction is that it provides a balanced commentary on this complicated and polarised subject. Importantly, the report reflects positively on the efforts undertaken by the industry to reduce peat even before the taskforce was created.
"It also lays out a 'roadmap' for industry-led initiatives that will provide for a more sustainable future. HTA and GMA have been at the forefront of many of the projects initiated by the taskforce, and GMA is now leading efforts to create a performance standard for amateur bagged growing media and will work with others in the sector to develop criteria to measure the environmentally and socially responsible credentials of all growing media materials, and to transfer appropriate knowledge through the professional sector."