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Valentine's Day Consumer Alert #2: Cut Flowers

Responsible Purchases Can Promote Change

Calvert News

In the weeks before Valentine's Day, Calvert's social investment analyst team is taking a closer look at the social issues surrounding some of our favorite Valentine's gifts: Diamonds, Cut Flowers, and Chocolate. We hope that these issue briefs will help educate our shareholders and encourage them to take action as responsible consumers. This week, we provide a special look at cut flowers.

The Issue: Cut Flowers
Who wouldn't be excited to receive a dozen red roses for Valentines Day? Well, you might think twice if those roses were subject to intense pesticide spraying that compromises the environment and the health of flower workers.

Flower farmers supplying the US market use significant amounts of chemicals and pesticides, due in large part to strict customs laws that require agricultural imports to be pest-free. And since only edible crops are inspected for pesticide residues, flower growers often use more chemicals than necessary.1

All this agrochemical use creates significant environmental impacts and puts flower workers at risk. Environmental Health Perspectives reports that intensive water use by flower farmers contributed to a significant drop in the water table under the savanna surrounding Bogota, Colombia. In Costa Rica, pesticide residues are directly discharged into waterways and runoff is allowed to enter important aquifer recharge areas. Studies also show that up to 127 different chemicals and pesticides have been found inside flower greenhouses, putting workers -- mostly women working for minimum wage -- at risk of exposure through the skin and by inhalation.2 Many of the types of chemicals and pesticides used in growing flowers have been shown to cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive and nervous system damage.3

Which Parties are Responsible?
Flowers are big business in the United States, representing $20 billion in sales per year.4 The US imports nearly 60 percent of the flowers it sells, mostly from Colombia and Ecuador. Colombia's flower trade has grown to be second in size only to that of the Netherlands; nearly one of every two cut flowers sold in the United States originates on the savanna region surrounding Bogota, Colombia.5 Most flower industry workers are employed by subcontractors, who then negotiate with wholesalers and buyers to sell their flowers, which eventually end up at US retailers.6 Calvert believes that all parties—from those involved in production to the end consumer— have a role to play in ensuring safe flower production.

What is the World Doing About Hazardous Flowers?
The environmental and worker's rights issues in the flower industry first came to light in the 1990s when European environmental and human rights advocacy groups began pressing for better conditions in flower greenhouses and less intense resource use during the growing cycle. In 1999, Germany launched the Flower Label Program requiring growers to sign an International Code of Conduct (ICC) for the socially and environmentally sustainable production of cut flowers.7 Industry responded with voluntary certification programs, such as Florverde in Colombia and Sello Verde in Ecuador, which require growers to meet standards based on their country's regulations.8 To date, certification programs have not gained momentum in the US market.

What Can You Do?
Be a responsible consumer and raise awareness. When you purchase flowers, opt for organic flowers purchased through retailers such as or Whole Foods Markets. These retailers ensure that they source from sustainable flower farms that address the environmental and public health concerns associated with production. Ask traditional florists and retailers if they have a policy on sourcing flowers from farmers that meet minimum environmental and worker's rights standards. And lastly, consider shopping at area farmers' markets for locally grown flowers. These simple actions can help send the message to retailers that consumers increasingly expect flowers to be produced in an environmentally sustainable manner without risks to workers. For additional information on this issue, please look at the Fairness in Flowers Campaign (

Prepared by Stephanie Cuttler, Social Research Analyst. Ms. Cuttler joined Calvert in 2004 to research product safety, public health, consumer fraud, and other product-related issues. As the healthcare sector analyst, she has developed an expertise in healthcare related environmental, social and governance issues as well as developed social investment guidelines for the sector. Ms. Cuttler also serves as team leader for research client services. Ms. Cuttler has lectured on Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Investment at the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business and Georgetown University. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan's Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, earning her MBA and MS - Environmental Policy in 2002. She has worked in the sustainable development group at Dow Chemical Company and spent four years as an environmental analyst with the Investor Responsibility Research Center. In her free time, Ms. Cuttler volunteers at Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade gift store, and works at FreshFarm Farmers Market. As of December 30, 2005, Whole Foods Market (WFMI) represented .14% of Calvert Social Index Fund and .94% of Calvert Large Cap Growth Fund.

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Sustainable Flowers Make The Perfect Gift For All Occasions

Organic Bouquet is the largest online provider of eco-friendly and organic floral gifts. All of our flowers are grown in a manner that is not only environmentally friendly but also provides outstanding resources for farm workers and artisans. Organic Bouquet partners with select flower farms in California, Ecuador and Colombia. All of our flower farms follow stringent growing practices which are monitored by multiple certification agencies and associations. When you purchase flowers from Organic Bouquet, you are helping to improve the life of a flower farm worker, their family and the local floral community.

Our eco-friendly flower arrangements include roses, calla lilies, tulips, gerbera daisies, hyacinths, sunflowers, alstromeria lilies and blue iris. In addition to a complete line of flower arrangements, we offer gift baskets, fruit baskets, nut baskets, gourmet chocolates, gourmet cookies, plants and  wreaths. All of these products are certified eco-friendly and/or provide for environmental benefits through our participation in Carbon Offset programs.

Whatever the occasion, our flowers make the perfect gift- birthday celebration flowers, anniversary flowers, holiday flowers, or floral arrangements simply to say thank you. Sending flowers from Organic Bouquet says that you care not only about the person receiving the flowers, but also about the environment. All of our gift items are shipped nationwide to all 50 states. So whether you need to send flowers to Florida, New York, California, or Colorado, we can guarantee overnight delivery to ensure they arrive fresh and ready to put a smile on someone’s face.

Whether you are purchasing online, or through one of our customer service specialists, you can be assured you are ordering the freshest quality of flowers and environmentally friendly gifts.