This study investigated the sustainability challenges and the adoption of sustainability innovations along the value chain of flowering potted plants supplying the German market. Data was collected through eighteen in-depths interviews with chain actors from different stages of the value chain and analyzed through qualitative content analysis. The material flow of the value chain begins at the breeding level followed by the propagation level. Cuttings are produced mostly in African countries, rooted cuttings and potted plants are cultivated in Europe. The main environmental challenges include water scarcity, pesticide use and carbon footprint. Social challenges in Africa include low wages and difficult working conditions. In Germany, social challenges include recruitment and retention of employees and product transparency. Economic challenges include profitability and the need to comply with standards. Sustainability driven innovations can address some sustainability challenges. However, their implementation often leads to increased costs, financial risk and complexity of implementation. Furthermore, the lack of product transparency prevents the transfer of sustainability costs to the consumer by offering a sustainable product for a premium price. Business-to-business standards have generally had a positive influence on the adoption of sustainability innovations. But by setting certification as an entry barrier for suppliers, retailers have become more powerful chain actors.
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