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What is the Responsible Sourcing Scheme (RSS)?

The Responsible Sourcing Scheme is a pioneering initiative led by industry stakeholders to encourage informed decisions about the environmental impact of growing media products. Utilising a colour-coded traffic light system, the scheme enables easy comparison of products based on their environmental credentials, empowering consumers, manufacturers, and retailers to make responsible choices.

The RSS was developed collaboratively by an array of stakeholders, including the Defra Soils and Peatland team, environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and leading experts from the growing media industry. This collaborative approach ensures the scheme is robust, balanced, and comprehensive.

Responsible sourcing is crucial for minimising environmental impact, promoting sustainable use of resources, and supporting ethical production practices. It plays a pivotal role in safeguarding our planet for future generations while meeting the current needs of the industry and consumers.

The RSS is tailored specifically for the growing media industry, encompassing all entities involved in the production and sale of growing media products, including manufacturers, retailers, and growers.

The RSS defines responsible sourcing through a set of stringent criteria that evaluate the environmental sustainability of products. These criteria include:

  • Energy
  • Water
  • Social compliance
  • Habitat and biodiversity
  • Pollution
  • Resource use efficiency
  • Renewability.

The primary objectives of the RSS are to enhance transparency within the growing media industry, promote environmentally responsible practices, and facilitate informed purchasing decisions by providing clear, accessible information about the sustainability of products.

Companies can join the RSS by applying to the scheme’s administrators and agreeing to abide by the scheme rules. The scheme documents can be found here.

Manufacturers will need to have undertaken audits of their substrates and products within 12 months of joining the scheme.

The criteria to achieve certification differs for manufacturers, retailers and growers.


To be certified under the RSS, manufacturers must commit to having all growing media components/substrates independently audited within 12 months of joining. They must promote their membership and display the RSS logo on all products, using a QR code for those awaiting audit. Accredited membership is granted to those auditing over 66% of their products by material volume within the timeframe. For more details, refer to Appendix V of the RSS guidelines which can be found here.


To be certified under the RSS, growers must commit to the scheme's principles and can use the RSS logo on their products that are covered by the scheme. This includes pre-mixed growing media from RSS-compliant manufacturers or their own mixes using compliant materials. Growers can use the 'Member' version of the RSS logo and are encouraged to promote their membership through sales literature and online platforms. For more details, refer to Appendix VII of the RSS guidelines which can be found here.


To be certified under the RSS, retailers must support the scheme's principles and are allowed to use the RSS logo on their own brand products, provided these products comply with scheme rules and compliance is verified. Retailers can use the 'Member' version of the RSS logo and are encouraged to promote their membership through sales literature and online platforms. For more details, refer to Appendix VI of the RSS guidelines which can be found here.

Certification under the RSS enhances a company's credibility and market differentiation by showcasing its commitment to environmental responsibility. It provides assurance through independent audits, allowing companies to use the RSS logo to attract environmentally conscious consumers. Additionally, members benefit from marketing advantages, access to sustainability resources, and alignment with regulatory requirements, all of which support long-term business success.

The Responsible Sourcing Scheme (RSS) stands out from other initiatives by its specific focus on the horticulture industry, offering a thorough audit process that ensures transparency and compliance across all growing media components. The RSS emphasises the entire supply chain, from raw materials to finished products, and provides detailed product scoring, allowing consumers to make informed decisions. Additionally, the RSS includes provisions for provisional membership, detailed branding guidelines, and a robust framework for ongoing compliance and re-audit, making it unique in its thoroughness and industry-specific approach.

Absolutely, the RSS is designed to accommodate businesses of all sizes within the growing media sector. Its flexible framework allows companies, regardless of their scale, to demonstrate their commitment to environmental responsibility.

To implement responsible sourcing practices, companies should assess their supply chain, set clear standards, and engage suppliers to ensure compliance. Regular audits, employee training, and promoting transparency with stakeholders are crucial. The scheme's audits allow for a baseline grade to be determined, enabling manufacturers and their suppliers to implement improvement processes. Companies should also focus on continuous improvement to adapt to new sustainability challenges and opportunities, thereby building a more sustainable and trusted supply chain.

The RSS ensures compliance with its standards through regular independent audits, detailed product scoring, and strict guidelines for the use of the RSS logo. Provisional members are monitored to complete required audits within set timeframes, and ongoing compliance checks are conducted. Regular stakeholder engagement also helps maintain transparency and address any concerns, ensuring that companies uphold high standards of environmental responsibility in their sourcing practices.

Yes, the RSS is a globally applicable scheme, open to companies from any country. This international scope underscores the universal relevance and adaptability of the scheme.

Yes, there is a cost associated with participating in the Responsible Sourcing Scheme. The subscription rates for 2024 are as follows:

Manufacturer Fees:

  • Turnover less than £5 million: £500
  • Turnover between £5-10 million: £750
  • Turnover between £10-25 million: £1000
  • Turnover more than £25 million: £2500

Other Fees:

  • Growers: £500
  • Retailers: £500
  • NGOs: £500

Additionally, the cost of audits is separate and determined by engaging directly with Supply Chain InSites, the scheme's independent auditor.