The Old Royal Oak in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, is one Punch pub that will benefit from "Green Warrior" Rachel King's innovations
As the UK's biggest pub company with more than 8,400 pubs, Punch Taverns hasn't exactly blazed a green trail in the past, but in recent months the company has been busy making up for lost time, having set up a "green team" headed by carbon manager Rachel King.
King was seconded to the newly created role earlier this year with a remit to look at the costs, benefits and challenges involved in "greenifying" the business. She has thrown herself into the role with gusto, and her colleagues now call her the Green Warrior.
"I look on this from a personal point of view as well as on a company level," she explains. "If we carry on doing what we are doing as a company and as a country, it will be a disaster in 20 years' time."
King's first real battleground has been utilities. In June Punch began a pilot scheme at 51 of its managed Spirit Group pubs to reduce water, gas and electricity consumption, based on "smart" metering systems that offer a real-time view of usage. The systems cost £1,000 each, but early indications are that a single pub could recoup that investment in just four months.
The focus is now shifting to changing behaviour, with a green training programme for pub managers and supporting literature for staff. This is being backed up by investing in improved insulation, more efficient boilers and low-energy lighting. Based on King's findings, Punch plans to roll out the investment programme across its managed estate next year and will be encouraging licensees in its tenanted estate to follow suit.
Meanwhile, a longer-term programme has reduced water consumption at its 800 managed pubs by 40% since 2004 - equivalent to 294 tonnes of CO2.
King's next big focus will be sitting down with Punch's suppliers and getting them to help it become more sustainable and efficient by reducing the frequency of deliveries and the amount of packaging they use.