Ethical Flowers: Not All Roses Smell As Sweet…

Besma holds a bouquet in front of her face

It’s time for some real talk about ethical flowers. Like many of you, I love receiving flowers. There’s something so pleasant about a pretty bouquet; every time you cast your eye over the vase, it reminds you of the person who gave them to you, and their reason why. But did you know, not all flowers are grown equal?

I was sad to recently learn that many of the flowers on sale in the UK are grown by workers who experience poor conditions and low wages. This exploitative industry takes away the beautiful story that each bouquet holds – but there are ethical flowers blooming among them.

I’ve teamed up with Fairtrade to take a closer look into how flowers are grown, who grows them, and how to support a fairer system (hint: look for the Fairtrade mark)…

Where Are Cut Flowers Grown?

So, first stop: let’s visit the flower farms that our bouquets come from. Did you ever wonder where in the world our flowers are grown? Before researching this piece, I would have taken a guess at the Netherlands (think: tulips) or Spain (they have perfect weather for just about everything). But in fact, a huge proportion of our flowers come from Kenya.

Kenya provides perfect soil and climate to grow many of our beloved flowers. This includes the “English” rose, which makes up to 80% of their total floral exports each year.

And in Kenya, around half of workers on flower farms are women. They work long hours to support their families, and in many cases, due to the poor conditions and pay, they become trapped in a negative cycle with little or no savings to enable them to find a job elsewhere. Not so rosy, after all.

Where To Find Ethical Flowers In UK

Luckily, this isn’t the case for all of our flowers. Fairtrade works with over 50,000 workers on Fairtrade certified flower farms, and has set up gender committees across Kenya to help give women a better chance. Alongside better pay and treatment, many women and their families benefit from maternity centres to help new births, more secure jobs and further education. 

Fairtrade is also working with flower farms in Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Ecuador, Uganda and Tanzania, but there is still a way to go when it comes to raising awareness about which flowers come from a fair system, and which don’t.

If you’re looking to buy ethical flowers and bouquets, look for the Fairtrade mark. A total of 90 million Fairtrade certified stems are sold in the UK each year, from roses to lilies, carnations to poinsettias, and you’ll be able to find Fairtrade flowers at:

  • Aldi: Look for the Fairtrade mark
  • Arena Flowers*: A Fairtrade registered florist
  • Asda: Look for the Fairtrade mark
  • Co-op: 100% Fairtrade stem roses
  • Euroflorist: Selling through 54,000 independent florists
  • Interflora: Selling Fairtrade flowers seasonally
  • M&S: Fairtrade rose and lily bouquets
  • Moonpig: Fairtrade bouquets sent by post
  • Sainsbury’s: UK’s largest retailer of Fairtrade flowers
  • Serenata Flowers: Supports sustainable flower farming

My Beautiful Bouquet from Arena Flowers

My own set of flowers pictured here is the Fairtrade Majestic bouquet, kindly gifted by Arena Flowers, a leading online florist that has been selling Fairtrade flowers since their start.

Not only are many of their flowers Fairtrade certified, they also look into the ethical policies upheld by each of the growers they work with, doing yearly checks to ensure they meet their standards. This dedication has resulted in Ethical Accreditation membership by the Ethical Company Organisation. 

What About Ethical Flowers’ Sustainability?

And of course – let’s quickly talk about our flowers’ sustainability, too. You may be surprised to learn that the carbon footprint of flowers grown in Kenya and other hot climates is actually lower than many stems grown in Europe or the UK – and this includes the carbon emissions generated when shipping them to the UK. This is due to the amount of energy it takes to warm and light greenhouses, which are necessary for flowers grown in cooler climates.

This was a real revelation to me when I first found out, having been a serious local foodie at one point in my life. Now, my focus is on understanding the impact of my actions, and especially my carbon footprint, so knowing this has made me start looking for flowers grown in hotter climates – just with the Fairtrade mark of course.

This post contains gifted items (denoted with 'gifted')


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