It was the late 1980s and the environmental movement was clamoring for more scrutiny and tough regulations. Agricultural retailers were feeling the heat from public officials around issues like point-source pollution, employee safety, and emergency preparedness. Many of those providing grower-customers with crop protection products and fertilizer were playing defense. Some were hunkered down, simply hoping all of this environmentalism would just blow over. Countless others were being proactive, stepping out with expensive improvements to facilities and operations.
Those inside the industry knew there were many great stories and fine examples of stewardship among farm supply retailers. There were many outlets where environmental stewardship was a daily priority. There were many businesses spending a lot of money to be a part of the solution rather than the problem. But how do we find those great stories and tell them?
In the midst of this concern came the launch of a new program designed to honor retailers for their stewardship efforts, hold them up as role models for other dealers to learn from, and share these stories of agriculture’s environmentalism with policy-makers and the media. In the autumn of 1990, DuPont Crop Protection and Dealer PROGRESS magazine launched the Environmental Respect Awards. All retailers were invited to take a pledge and to compete for awards.
“Walk across the road and look back at your operation,” invited an early editorial as an invitation to participate in the initiative. Seeing one’s business as our neighbors see it was a place to start. Making improvements meant doing some business introspection, and for many the awards effort became a way to learn just what environmental stewardship meant for a retail business. In filling out the extensive Environmental Respect Awards self-audit, many retailers found ways to improve their facilities, even though they may never have entered the actual competition.
Now, just short of 20 years later, more than 5,000 crop input retailers in the U.S. have shown their spirit of environmental respect by filling out the self-audit booklet and entering the competition. Of those 5,000-plus, 350 have won state awards, 123 have earned regional honors, and 19 have won the National Award. Since 1990, the good news of agricultural retailer environmentalism has been shared with hundreds of elected officials at the local, state, and federal level and thousands of stories have been carried through media outlets all across the country.
Every year, these winners have given all of us cause for celebration. The time and money agricultural retailers have put into preserving and protecting the environment should be a source of pride to all involved in serving the world with a safe and abundant food supply. And this year, we want you to join with us in celebrating 20 years of environmental stewardship — 20 years of Environmental Respect.
We want you to join with other ag retailers all across America in saying: We are America’s agricultural retailers.
We are Environmental Respect.