The landscaping sector is confronted with several tough challenges—safeguarding biodiversity, the emergence of new markets and the need for higher professional qualifications. Paysalia, the landscaping Trade Show, provides answers for professionals and businesses. In fact its prime function is to help the profession meet these new challenges through its suppliers, partners and innovations.
Presentation of the three themes by Unep
Today ensuring biodiversity is a major concern, following on from society’s renewed awareness of other environmental topics such as the hole in the ozone layer, CO2 emissions and climate change.
The loss of biodiversity is now regarded as a major problem, the catastrophic impact of which affects not only so-called “rare” species but also everyday species like bees, birds, bats, insects, etc. Intrinsically connected, plants support biodiversity, both as living organisms and as the fauna’s habitat.
The challenge of biodiversity is omnipresent, including in urban spaces. The French local elections in 2020 proved it: for the first time, nature in inner cities became a major issue, on the same level as environmental concerns about CO2 emissions and fine particle pollution.
All candidates extolled the virtues of urban centre vegetalization and visible nature down town. A new terminology appeared in which “urban forest” replaced “the park”, “the garden”, as well as the greening of roadside verges and traffic lane dividers. Promoted in France in 2018 by Nicolas Hulot’s Biodiversity Plan, this movement militates for the return of nature down town and the protection of species under threat.
The 2020 spring lockdown due to Covid revealed just how essential access to green spaces is to the health and well-being of all. It was a catalyst and an accelerator of this basic trend. 2021 will be the year of biodiversity. Several events (the One Planet Summit¹, the UICN world nature congress²), and several legislative texts (laws 3C³ and 4D4) should further reinforce the need already expressed to protect our environment and more particularly biodiversity—a truly planetary challenge!
Because they are professionals specialized in living organisms, Landscaping companies are fully associated with these challenges and particularly with the problems of revegetalizing and renaturing cities and urban spaces. Landscaping companies are no longer simply pairs of hands and must seize this opportunity to position themselves as experts, both as specifiers and installers of plant species, whether endemic, favourable to the local biotope, etc. and as experts in the techniques employed, more natural with less impact on the biotope. Positioning landscaping companies in this way means they have to simultaneously continue to improve corporate skill levels and become expert in new methods and practices.
Unep is fully committed to this approach and to assisting companies working in all market niches answering the challenges of biodiversity and novel methods. Unep’s work on formulating professional rules of conduct, providing advice and defining good practices for companies and their customers, creating training modules in these new practices, on professional rules and new materials, qualifications and certifications enabling companies to stand out in the crowd are all landmark achievements for this Trade Association.
¹ The first One Planet Summit devoted to biodiversity was organized by France on Monday, 11 January 2021.
² Founded in 1948 in France and based in Switzerland, UICN—the International union for nature conservation—is a non-governmental organization dedicated to nature conservation. The congress will be held in Marseilles in September 2021.
³ French Law 3C: the Citizen Convention for the Climate government bill should be voted during the summer of 2021.
4 French Law 4D: the government bill for decentralization, differentiation, devolution and reduced complexity will be submitted to the Council of Ministers in February 2021.
The French Office for Biodiversity (OFB) should organize a joint project with Unep providing consultancy and formulating good practices for professionals. Institutional partnerships have already been organized, for example with the French Ministry for Ecological Transition in particular on the file concerning booklet 35. Hortis, the AITF and other professional organizations representing promoters and developers are partners and advisers.
The New Markets
The programme launched in 2020 to support the French economy during the Covid-19 crisis has already or soon will boost some markets in the landscaping sector. In particular the French Government will encourage5 and subsidize the plantation of millions of trees. In addition, ecological engineering is booming. Nature-based solutions (NBS) are thriving and provide meaningful alternatives to traditional infrastructures such as swales or other kinds of mineral installations. NBS have two assets: firstly they highlight nature and secondly they ensure the permeability of soils. Little by little these solutions create new markets.
Urban agriculture is now a real issue for citizens. Landscaping companies not yet involved in this market should re-examine their corporate positioning to enhance the profitability of their works. The same is true about vegetalizing buildings, including vegetalized roofs. This market - an answer to the renaturation of urban spaces - will grow very quickly. Lastly, indoor gardening is booming – a trend perhaps but likely to last as people become increasingly aware of the benefits of plants in their homes.
5 The budget for the support program is 200 million Euros. The forest-timber sector has submitted its roadmap for the adaptation of our forests to climate change to the French Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The Minister signed a charter of commitment with the Unep and everyone involved on 12/22/2020.
Over and above these new markets, new practices are developing too. For example outsourcing involving new practices for signing contracts. Biodiversity performance contracts prepared by CDC Biodiversité require suppliers when signing contracts to guarantee a specific level of biodiversity. A major change: from a list of actions to undertake and means to implement, the contract specifies commitments and objectives to be attained.
Simultaneously with these new practices, little by little new materials and equipment become obligatory in particular putting an end to phytopharmacological products. More globally, the profession addresses the question of its own impact on biodiversity and the climate and aims to reduce the carbon footprint of the sector by using more electrical equipment.
Lastly, digitalization has changed companies on every level, from internal management (invoicing, stocks), to trade practices (LIM, BIM, design tools), through to client relationships with a host of integrated software automating site intervention reports and the transmission of before/after site photos…
The landscaping sector works more and more closely with its suppliers. Our profession must advance hand in the hand with its business partners, be reactive and help them understand our trades and markets better. They invest in the development of techniques and innovative materials and their logic is to target markets with high volume sales such as public authorities or construction works.
We are always on the lookout for innovations emerging in other sectors to apply them to landscaping. For example, just like exoskeletons, small electrical equipment initially appeared in other sectors before being applied to landscaping.
Waterway managers and operators are “musts” in environmental engineering.
Equipment rental firms like Loxam and Kiloutou in France have a 360° vision of market trends. As they have their own research and development services, they are eminently qualified to train landscapers. Equipment manufacturers like Husqvarna can be approached directly just like the software suppliers used by more and more landscaping companies.
Trade expertise and Adaptation to the new challenges of the profession
Trade expertise means adequating our profession with the expectations of society. It is vital for landscaping companies and professionals to augment their skill levels and avoid the uberisation of the sector and the devalorization of corporate added-values likely to cause a drop in prices.
The professionals who are members of Unep run a permanent watch to detect new trends and anticipate legal and technical changes in society’s expectations.
Our objective is to help companies so that they are always state of the art. We encourage professionals to become experts in the fundamentals of their trade, i.e. knowledge of soils and recognition of plants. We also assist them in their corporate positioning and their responses to new challenges like biodiversity. All landscapers must henceforth integrate the gestures and good practices favoring biodiversity and as far as possible protecting nature during their works into their daily routines.
Raising professional skill levels means adopting innovations as they emerge. Training in new equipment, software, digitalization, robotization and “dronization” is essential. This integration of the latest innovations will broaden the spectrum of corporate expertise and that of their personnel and open the doors of the sector to new trades and new skills. One example is the growth of robot mowers the fleets of which are managed by specialist computer engineers. Companies evolve and with them their trades and skills. The whole profession is changing as are the perimeters by which companies position their activities. Companies must be open to change and flexible to adapt to these emerging markets.
The sector concentrates primarily on our fundamentals, i.e. plant recognition and our professional code of ethics. These skills are the core values of the profession. These skills will make the sector grow. On more advanced, less mature subjects, the sector maintains an on-going watch, observing what is happening and following change.
MSA accompanies the sector on all questions relating to hardship, risks and personal safety. It is essential to accompany the transformation of the sector to reduce accident rates and improve working conditions for the personnel. MSA is a “must” partner.