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Viewpoint: saving the planet is a team sport

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Viewpoint: saving the planet is a team sport

Environmental issues are the hot topic right now, but it’s important that each and every one of us is continuing to think up innovative solutions to problems across the industry, says Andrew Stephen

Our food choices, over the course of our lives, are our biggest interaction and influence on the natural world. So what? Too busy balancing the books? Well as you’re reading this after 1 August, it’s worth remembering that humanity has already exhausted the earth’s budget for natural resources for the year.

That’s why we’re growing the number of sustainable places to eat and making them easier to find. By supporting progressive change, together we accelerate towards a more delicious and sustainable food system.

Our brilliant hospitality industry can lead the way, and there’s a big prize. The estimated value of food wasted in UK restaurants is £700m alone. One day, all restaurants will be sustainable and we’ll look back rather quizzically on much of what we currently do. In the startling light of the shifts in our political landscape, seasonal patterns and business climate, the need for bright thinking about our food chains and our business models has never been clearer.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and boy do we need to be inventive. The good news is we’re heading in the right direction. What was cutting edge in 2010, or even 2015, is in many cases now standard practice. While serving Fairtrade coffee was once a radical choice, direct trade models are now the vehicle of the truly progressive. Five years ago, separating food waste was a big step for restaurants. Innovative ways of limiting how much food ends up in the bin and redistributing surplus are becoming the norm. We don’t expect everyone to spend hours becoming experts on every sustainability issue (fascinating as they are). The job for all of us now is to help each and every one of us so we can get there faster.

Each year, we update our Food Made Good accreditation to reflect these industry changes, and 2018 saw a big shift forward in our definition of “exceptional” performance. We added ‘influence’ as a measure because we need to do more than tinker under the bonnet. We are all influencers now: our membership is the platform and accreditation is how a business can build their action plan.

Here are five ways everyone can have more influence:
1 Share a recipe with us for a better food system at oneplanetplate.org.
2 Tell your staff and customers what you stand for and use our framework and campaigns.
3 Cut single-use plastic by downloading our unwrapping plastic guide.
4 Attend our events that are open to all, and come with questions about how you can drive change in your business.
5 Enter our Food Made Good awards (#FoodMadeGood18) as a supplier or a foodservice business – 1 October, the date the winners are to be announced, is going to be a day to celebrate.

Not destroying the planet isn’t a competition. Whatever your role in your business, you can join this movement and lead as well as feed. We have built a community of individuals who share and help each other to address business challenges and sustainability challenges together. And you’re all invited!

Andrew Stephen is chief executive of the Sustainable Restaurant Association www.thesra.org

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