Iona's Sustainability Story (part 2) | by Rozy Gunn
“I don’t know what sustainability means anymore, in the agricultural world anyway. It’s become a tired and dirty word that is bandied about recklessly by companies and individuals who are usually still putting most of the emphasis on financial sustainability with far less attention paid to the other two legs of the chair which are social and environmental. The reason for this is primarily because you can get away with neglecting the social and environmental impact far longer than the financial impact in the world we operate in today.
The million-dollar question of course is ‘how much is enough?’ which is as useful as asking ‘how long is a piece of string?’ Some of us just seem to need so much more than is naturally available to us, and the obvious way of overcoming this inconvenience is to take advantage of something or someone. In agriculture this plays itself out in the use of superficial cost-effective methods of dealing with disease and weeds and nutrition, which usually means using systemic chemicals, synthetic fertilizers and herbicides. I don’t know how sustainable that is for soil, water or air or the humans that are required to apply them in terms of long-term health, never mind the end consumer. In an age where the expectation of “get more for less” is more or less taught, it requires a bit of a leap to “pay more for less” and support honestly grown produce from conscious producers.
I have found provenance to be a useful tool and compass in an increasingly cut-throat agricultural minefield. This basically translates as knowing or at least being acutely aware of where the products you use come from, who made them, what do they do, what impact do they have on soil, humans and animals and atmosphere. Where do your people come from, what are their thoughts, hopes and needs? Where does the paper come from we use on labels, the glass the corks? What suppliers are you supporting and what do you stand for? At heart I sincerely believe we all want to do the right thing, but ignorance often blurs our vision. At least it’s a starting point in an otherwise vast and confusing and contradictory universe where waste and famine are both to found in abundance”.