The Environmental Respect Awards recognize standout stewardship among agri-retailers in Canada and around the world.
Last year, Crop Production Services (CPS) in High River, Alta., became the first-ever Canadian agri-retailer to receive an Environmental Respect Award, the premiere award for global agri-retail stewardship. 2015 was the first year that these prestigious awards were open to submissions from Canadian companies.
The Environmental Respect Awards (ERA), sponsored by DuPont Crop Protection and presented by CropLife Magazine, are dedicated specifically to farm supply businesses that handle, sell and apply crop protection products. The awards aim to recognize agri-retail companies that demonstrate leadership in plant-site compliance, proper application techniques and retail safety.
Alan Gaja, location manager for CPS High River, credits the accomplishment to his staff and a collaborative effort to put the company’s best foot forward.
“It was a team effort from our great group of employees,” he says. “An important objective for our facility is to be respectful of the environment and the land – and agronomically, to use the right products in the right ways.”
Far from a simple application process, the self-audit required for a location to enter the ERA digs deep into the details of the operation. Gaja found that the audit process was also an opportunity for reflection as to how their operation could better approach certain practices. “We found some questions that make you re-think what you are doing,” he says.
Michael DeLuca, president of Meister Media Worldwide (which handles communications for the awards), says the comprehensive questionnaire may be an application for a prestigious award, but can also be seen as a step-by-step guide to best practices for a sustainable and responsible agri-retail organization.
“We want agri-retailers to step back and use the application form to take a look at the security, safety and environmental practices of their operation,” says DeLuca. “The purpose of this program is not only to honour, but encourage, excellence in environmental stewardship.”
Topics covered in the application process include facility maintenance, emergency preparedness, safe handling and storage, responsible fertilizer applications and disposal, as well as the agri-retailer’s approach to health and safety, security, professional development, community involvement and company philosophy.
To complete the hefty audit and do their location justice, Gaja worked with CPS’s manager of compliance, Dave Friesen. “There was a lot of reviewing,” says Gaja. “We also took photos of our site, and had some staff members demonstrate proper hazardous substance handling. We went over everything two or three times before submitting the application.”
Clean, Green and on the Scene
The application process allowed CPS to highlight the efforts they have made to be at the forefront of responsible Canadian agri-retail. “We were able to answer most of the questions with confidence,” says Gaja. “We didn’t have to shy away from the truth.”
In addition to following proper protocol for nutrient application, safe disposal of contaminants and hazardous materials and up-to-date employee training, Gaja’s organization understands the importance of keeping the facility physically clean and tidy.
“We strive to keep our yard free of fertilizer, debris and other potential contaminants,” he says. “Our location is very clean and has great eye appeal when our customers come through the door.” He notes that during customer tours, many have commented on the cleanliness and organization of their facility.
CPS has also built a reputation as a contributor to the community of High River, a factor which likely helped them to stand out amongst the other ERA candidates. In the ERA application questionnaire, a company’s community outreach initiatives are comprehensively examined.
“We pride ourselves on being very active within our community,” says Gaja. “We make regular donations to local organizations such as hospitals, youth groups and women’s shelters. These opportunities have allowed us to become a trusted community business and develop strong relationships with the locals.”
Agri-retailers’ Time to Shine
Since the inception of the awards in 1990, more than 5,000 businesses from around the world have shared their stories of environmental responsibility with the ERA judges’ panel. The March 2016 application deadline marked only the second time that Canadians have been invited to enter, and submissions from Canada have averaged over a dozen for each year so far.
DeLuca sees the ERA as a way for agri-retailers to demonstrate their responsible practices to their immediate community, and to the public at large. “It’s a sign to the community that the retailers care about the environment, that they care about safety and about agriculture,” he says. “Community groups care about the good things ag is doing.”
Winning organizations are recognized with a celebration event in their community, publicity from the ERA and a video profile on the awards website. They are also honoured during an expenses-paid trip to the week-long awards celebration from July 25-29, 2016 in Wilmington, Delaware.
Though the submission deadline for this year has passed, agri-retailers hoping to be considered for the 2017 awards have a prime opportunity to revisit their approach to stewardship and business best practices – starting right now.
The ERA website (www.EnvironmentalRespect.com) is a rich resource for tips, examples and insider information that will help prepare hopefuls to submit their application. It includes a page dedicated to self-audit tips and tutorial videos, to assist unacquainted agri-retailers through the process.
According to DeLuca, the best way to prepare is by seeing what has been successful in previous years. “The best way candidates can prepare to enter is to read the stories and watch the videos of past winners,” he says. A glimpse into the businesses of past winners like CPS gives an insight into how the world’s leaders in agri-retail environmental stewardship are operating – and how future leaders can follow suit.
Click here to view last year's ERA application, and start your entry strategy for next year.
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