The responsibility of operators to play their part in making the food industry more sustainable and lower its environmental impact was discussed by a panel at the Victoria & Albert museum.
The panel discussion, titled ‘Bigger than the Lunchbox: The Food Debate goes to Work’, was organised by contract caterer BaxterStorey who sponsored the museum’s exhibition FOOD: Bigger than the Plate.
It was chaired by Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of both Leon restaurants and the Sustainable Restaurant Association as well as a non-executive board member of Defra. Dimbleby opened the discussion saying that the variety and abundance of food available to us would shock our grandparents, but that this “extraordinary bounty has come at a cost” to the environment, biodiversity, our landscape, in terms of carbon emissions and to our health.
Skye Gyngell of Spring restaurant in London’s Somerset House – which has completely eradicated single-use plastic from the venue – encouraged others not to be overwhelmed by the scale of the problem speaking of the “power of one”. She said: “We do many things I see as a link in the chain”.
Spring, who also oversees the food offer at Heckfield Place in Hampshire, works with Fern Verrow biodynamic farm, buying all the produce it harvests. Gyngell explained that this had seen periods where more produce was delivered than was needed. To combat waste, she launched a scratch menu made from surplus produce, priced at £20 for three courses – Gyngell described the menu as “probably the most successful thing I have ever done”. Mike Hanson (pictured), head of sustainable business for BaxterStorey, spoke of the areas where the business could make “a massive difference to the planet”.
The caterer has been measuring food waste for almost five years and saved more than 7,000 tons as well as 17,000 tons of Co2. It also has decentralised supply chains allowing different sites to source their own produce locally.
On top of this Hanson spoke of using the businesses’ influence to spread the message of sustainability through teams, clients and supply chains adding that environmental aims needed to be “intrinsic and embedded into the whole organisation”.
Bridget Jackson, chief sustainability officer at PWC, explained that there had been a sea change in the last year, with employees taking an increased interest in the company’s green credentials.
She said: “It’s a completely different workforce now. People are saying ‘help me drink more water’, ‘help me eat a better diet’, ‘help me to eat more sustainably’. It’s completely different from a year ago.”