The Sustainable Restaurant Association's free resource for businesses will act as a focus and exchange of ideas for those tasked with making the real changes – the hospitality staff, says Juliane Caillouette Noble
The innovation, ingenuity and resilience of the hospitality sector over the past 18 months cannot be overstated. Whole businesses pivoted overnight, new models were born and the NHS was fed, all while the industry weathered the greatest crisis it has ever faced. There was no plan for a pandemic and yet here we are, still serving millions of meals each week; still greeting diners with a smile and supporting farmers and producers up and down the country.
And though the worst of the global pandemic might be behind us, we are together stood in front of the biggest challenge that humanity has ever faced: the climate crisis. As the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put it, we are facing a code red climate emergency.
The food that we eat accounts for nearly a third of all greenhouse gases emitted and uses 70% of the planet's fresh water. There is no road to mitigating climate change that doesn't run directly through the food system. There is no net zero economy by 2050 that doesn't require net zero restaurants.
Covid laid bare some of the vulnerabilities in that system, but the supply chain chinks and temporary shortages are nothing when compared to the potential impacts we'll face if we don't keep the temperature increases to less than 1.5ºC.
But there is a plan. There are solutions and actions we collectively can and must take to create a better food future. And we are more certain than ever that now is the time for every hospitality business around the world to commit to act and join the movement.
Business as usual is not an option – 83% of UK consumers now expect food and drink brands to engage on at least one of four areas of sustainability: sourcing, packaging, carbon emissions or fundraising. The task at hand, limiting global warming and building a food system that is good for both people and planet, is too important for operators to dance around the edges.
For us the moment has arrived when accelerating change is more important than charging a membership fee. Therefore, our Food Made Good community (https://community.foodmadegood.org) will now be open to all hospitality businesses globally. Every chef, general manager, waiter or chief financial officer around the world can connect to ask and answer questions, and share the extensive expertise, knowledge, tools and resources that we've developed together over the last decade – for free.
It is no longer enough to signal your credentials through membership of an association – businesses must take action. Now, rather than paying to join Food Made Good, businesses will pay to certify. Focusing our attention on certification shows the industry that action matters infinitely more than intention. Consumers won't accept dubious claims and businesses have until 1 January to ensure that their sustainability claims are more than greenwash or they will face sanctions under the Competition and Markets Authority's Green Claims Code.
It's not just your customers demanding demonstrable change, your workforce is too. At a time when good staff are so hard to find, show the next generation you take these challenges seriously. For example, one London pub operator recently set up an environmental board and a quarter of its employees applied to join.
So where should businesses begin? At a time when money is tight, look for the quick wins. Switch to a renewable energy supplier and reduce your carbon emissions by 10%-20%. Complete a Food Made Good Rating for your business and build an action plan aimed squarely at net zero. Stand still and you risk the health of the planet, your customers and your business.
Everything needs to change and it has to start today.
Juliane Caillouette-Noble is managing director of the Sustainable Restaurant Association
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