J.W.H. van der Waal, J.R.J. Moss
Bananas are an important food item for European and American consumers. It is generally the best-selling fruit item in the typical European supermarket. In recent years, concerns about food safety and sustainability issues have increased greatly. Although apparently high on the agenda of the public and policy makers, sustainability does not appear in the top three buying motives of consumers. People in their role as citizens may find sustainability important, but as consumers they set a higher value on price, quality and appearance. Retailers offer sustainable product categories, like organic and Fairtrade bananas, but these labels have only captured a small percentage of the market. A breakthrough for Fairtrade only occurs when retailers replace their offering by Fairtrade at the same price as conventional bananas. The retail industry has a key responsibility in guiding the mainstream consumer towards sustainable choices; consumers on their own cannot drive this agenda. Sustainability should encompass the broad range of bananas, and not just some high-price, niche categories. There is a shift in approach of sustainability in terms of immediate local impacts of a banana crop (e.g., farm pesticide, farm labor) to global impacts (e.g., on world climate and water resources). The industry has introduced voluntary business-to-business standards such as SA8000, business-to-consumer standards, such as Fairtrade, organic and Rainforest Alliance, or environmental management systems, notably ISO 14001. These standards were not designed for bananas, but derived from other commodities, have different focuses and are not based on the involvement of multiple stakeholders of the banana value-chain. The question is how adequate these standards are to measure and improve sustainability specifically for the banana chain. These standards are farm based, but sustainability should go beyond the farm and include the supply chain. Efficient water and energy use and greenhouse gas emissions along the chain can be estimated using life-cycle approaches with standardized protocols. The World Banana Forum is a process to discuss and exchange best practices, but does not aim yet to develop a sustainable banana standard, though it has the potential to become the nucleus for a process dedicated to banana sustainability. There is a need for a comprehensive mainstream “green banana” standard; this will avoid the confusion of multiple standards and could become a benchmark for sustainability for all export bananas. The article concludes with proposing a research agenda towards full sustainability of the export banana trade, including in standards and certifications, disease management, organic farming principles and integrated farming, climate change and energy use, and economics and marketing.
van der Waal, J.W.H. and Moss, J.R.J. (2013). JUST GREEN BANANAS: TOWARDS FULL SUSTAINABILITY OF THE EXPORT BANANA TRADE. Acta Hortic. 986, 287-300
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2013.986.31
certification, environment, ethical trade, marketing, retail, standards

Acta Horticulturae