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Article: AsureQuality visit a step towards finalising the NZ0 Certification standard

AsureQuality visit a step towards finalising the NZ0 Certification standard

AsureQuality visit a step towards finalising the NZ0 Certification standard

The visit was one of the final steps towards finalising the NZ0 Certification standard. From the AsureQuality side, it involved understanding the systems on the farm and making sure the certification included everything necessary for the standard to be successful and robust.

The AsureQuality team consisted of Environmental Assurance Lead Simon Love, Experienced Auditor Mark Hawker, and Program Advisor Susanna Blakely. All making the trip down from the Christchurch office to review the world’s first zero fossil fuel orchard, Forest Lodge.

Being true to the NZ0 philosophy, their trip down was made in a leased Tesla, made further affordable due to the free energy top up from the Forest Lodge solar array and battery banks upon arrival.

NZ0 CEO Mike Casey chatting to the AsureQuality Team at the Orchard entrance.

After an orchard introduction and hands-on tour of how large-scale UFO cherry orchards are operated, the team got down to business. Each piece of machinery was checked, tagged and reported as being fully electric and fossil fuel free. This extended to all power tools, farm vehicles, sprayers, and frost fans and was finalised with a final sweep of the property to ensure no old diesel-powered equipment was onsite or in use. 

AsureQuality team inspecting the forklift and battery setup.

Inspecting the electrification setup.

While the actual visit was completed in a few hours, the build up and certification has taken many months of discussions, checklists and reviews, with AsureQuality developing the NZ0 certification from the ground up. Various scenarios were considered and thought out during the process to identify and reduce potential loopholes and ensure the certification was as robust and true to the zero fossil fuel vision as was realistically possible. Part of this includes the allowance for provisional entry/membership. This encourages membership through a series of steps, similar to other grower and farmer standards, ensuring entry to the certification is realistic and viable. The other is that in rare cases, small emissions out of the control of the grower may sometimes be necessary, and when these occur, will be offset.

While robust, the NZ0 Certification is simple in structure with the expectation that all fossil fuels from the farm or orchard are no longer used, or have already been removed. AsureQuality's role as independent auditor is to maintain consumer trust in the certification and provide assurance that these changes are permanent and adhered to through a regular auditing process.

Audit Overview

While a strict certification, NZ0 and AsureQuality felt there was no justification for grey area when it came to the creation of the NZ0 Certification. For context, we have highlighted some of the key points of the NZ0 Certification below: 

  • There is no tolerance of fossil fuel purchases made by the grower for farm activities. This includes purchases from the company bank accounts, credit cards, debit cards, vouchers or gifts as well as purchases by employees.
  • No fossil fuel-based equipment is be used, stored or owned by the farm. This includes redundant equipment
  • The farm / orchard must choose their suppliers (including processing / manufacturing sites) with preference given to those that operate their business, and are closely aligned with the NZ0 Certification Values. In order of preference these are:
    1. Completely Electrified
    2. Green Hydrogen from renewable sources (wind, solar or hydro)
    3. Toitū Climate Positive or Ekos Climate Positive
    4. Toitū Carbon Zero  or Ekos Zero Carbon
    5. Toitū Carbon Reduce or Ekos Carbon Friendly or a Science Based Target approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).
    6. All other providers - If other providers are used, emissions must be offset. 

Once the Standard has been finalised with AsureQuality, the Standard and Scheme Rules will be available on the NZ0 website for those who are interested.

Finishing up the orchard tour and heading into the sheds for further equipment checks and reviews.

Successful Review & Next Steps

With Forest Lodge Orchard showcasing the systems and processes, this helped the AsureQuality team ensure the standard covered all aspects necessary. Overall making it a fair comment that the visit was a success.

Looking to the future, our next steps involve building awareness of the NZ0 Certification through educating and supporting growers and farmers who wish to successfully convert their farm to be NZ0 certified. All part of the bigger journey to support the fossil fuel free movement and create the change in the horticultural industry that the consumer, New Zealand and the world demands.

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