Madrid, Spain—Pharmactive Bioactive has unveiled its long-term sustainability program emphasizing fair-trade, boosting local women’s workforces, reducing energy consumption and waste through upcycling, and promoting crops that support biodiversity, and has certified its Environmental Management System according to ISO 14001:2015, according to a press release.

“Spain is scattered with rural areas dubbed ‘empty Spain’ due to populations abandoning these towns to seek better employment opportunities within the larger metropolises,” explains Julia Diaz, Head of Marketing for Pharmactive. “Castille is considered an important ancient agrarian cultural heritage site of Spain, yet it has been suffering from this ghost town syndrome. As a result, the government is pushing incentives to attract people to the region, and we have deployed our initiatives to try and help our government reverse the trend.”

As part of its environmental policy, Pharmactive has devised a long-term contract farming plan to reinforce the local economy and workforce of remote areas of the Castille-La-Mancha region of Spain where its saffron is grown, while promoting Spanish culture heritage preservation. The program is designed to secure the income and livelihoods of these farmers, who must in turn commit to the traditional and ecological agricultural and harvesting practices delineated by the company.

One such practice: Barbecho, the Spanish agricultural tradition of designating periods for fields to lie fallow, allowing the land to restore its organic matter. “This practice exerts a positive impact through multiple mechanisms,” explained Jean-Marie Raymond, CEO at Pharmactive. “It enriches the ecosystem, promotes biodiversity, and benefits pollinating insects. It also protects endangered species, such as several native steppe habitat birds, and helps naturally control pests, fungi, and weeds. Furthermore, this ancient practice gives us a means of sustaining the Earth so that it can continue to sustain us.”

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The program also works to create employment for women: Saffron harvesting requires manual picking, and the stigmas must be separated from the flowers by hand. Local women aged 40-67 are employed for this work, which provides otherwise unemployed women with a job. It has the side benefit of avoiding the use of machinery, preventing energy consumption and waste emissions.

“We are committed to developing a fair and enduring relationship with the communities involved in the sourcing and processing saffron,” adds Diaz. “Pharmactive’s operations are based on solid principles of respect for the environment and a desire to contribute to the quality of life of communities we work with and the consumers we serve.”