Certification of Sustainable and Climate-Friendly Peat Substitutes 

HORTICERT is an international certification system that ensures ecological, social, and economic sustainability for peat substitutes and growing media.

Peat substitutes are organic and mineral materials used in the production of potting soils for hobby gardening and substrates for professional gardening. With their help, the peat content can be greatly reduced or completely replaced.

HORTICERT ensures that the peat substitutes used in peat-free and peat-reduced growing media have been produced in an ecologically, socially, and economically sustainable way. Peat substitutes also usually have a lower carbon footprint than peat. HORTICERT has developed a uniform methodology for calculating greenhouse gas emissions, which allows statements on the greenhouse gas savings of peat-free and peat-reduced growing media compared to conventional products with a high peat content. Under HORTICERT, peat substitutes such as green waste compost, wood fibers or coconut-based products, but also other peat substitutes, can be certified. By certifying peat substitutes, HORTICERT promotes sustainable and climate-friendly horticulture with reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Horticulture and certification 

What does HORTICERT mean?  

The name HORTICERT combines the terms “Horticulture” and “Certification” and underlines the international orientation of the certification system.

 Elements of the Certification System

The four essential elements of HORTICERT include the risk-based verification of ecological, social, and economic sustainability criteria, the greenhouse gas calculation of peat substitutes and growing media, the traceability of supply chains, and the system structure. 

Ecological, Social and Economic Sustainability 

HORTICERT verifies the ecological, social, and economic sustainability of peat substitutes along the entire value chain, from extracting peat substitutes to the production of the final substrates. To ensure sustainability of various peat substitutes across the world, HORTICERT has established seven sustainability principles.

Greenhouse Gas Calculation

HORTICERT determines the individual CO2 footprint of peat substitutes and final substrates. The greenhouse gas calculation considers, among other things, the use of raw materials, water, energy and fuel consumption of the production facilities, the generation and disposal of waste, as well as transport emissions. The uniform calculation methodology allows the comparison of peat-free or peat-reduced substrates with conventional products with high peat content as a reference product.

Traceability of the Supply Chains 

Supply chain traceability ensures that sustainability requirements are met throughout the entire production process, from the extraction of raw materials to the production of the final product. IIt also ensures that no more material is sold as sustainable than has actually been sustainably produced and certified. Soon, a digital traceability system developed specifically for this purpose will be used to trace the supply chains in HORTICERT.  

System Structure

HORTICERT was developed in an open multi-stakeholder process alongside representatives from the substrate industry, trade, politics, scientific institutions, and NGOs. Currently, more than 40 international organizations are participating in the multi-stakeholder dialogue.

Development of HORTICERT

According to the German Federal Government’s Climate Action Plan 2050 and the Peat Reduction Strategy of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) published in July 2022, the use of peat in hobby horticulture is to be ended in Germany by 2026 and reduced as far as possible in professional horticulture by 2030.

Against this background, BMEL has commissioned Meo Carbon Solutions GmbH with the development and implementation of an international certification system for peat substitutes. The project is funded by the BMEL based on a decision by the Federal German Parliament and is carried out under the direction of the Agency for Renewable Resources (Fachagentur für Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V. – FNR).

By certifying peat substitutes, HORTICERT supports the goal of peat reduction and ensures that sustainable and climate-friendly alternatives to peat are used. After the project’s funding ends in 2025, HORTICERT will continue as a stand-alone, independent certification system.