Fred Barnes, chief executive, 3663 First for Foodservice
It does not take someone with a crystal ball to realise that if we don't consider the impact our actions have on the environment, we will not have a future to build towards.
The past year has been a challenging one for the hospitality industry. The downturn in consumer confidence, and related decline in eating out, has affected our customers, suppliers and communities.
Throughout this difficult period, we have ensured that our focus on corporate social responsibility has not faltered. We believe that this area has grown to be of such importance to our customers, that it has now placed itself on a commercially sound platform, as well as a moral one.
By maintaining the passion and focus behind sustainability within your business, you set yourself apart from the competition.
Reducing our impact on resources is fundamental to our business and by sharing 3663 best practices, we hope to inspire others to bring sustainability into the heart of their operations. If we don't, the outlook will be grim.
So, what areas are going to become more important in the future? There are three key issues around the world that directly impact the tomorrow we are working towards: available energy resources, product inflation and the "people explosion", but what are the areas where we can make a difference as a business?
Local sourcing will continue to gain importance. This will not necessarily be reflected in monetary values and financial returns but has a key role to play within the hospitality industry.
Consumers expect local products to feature prominently on menus and they are willing to pay more for them. Recent surveys have found that locally sourced products and strong ethical credentials now take the top two positions when it comes to the purchase decision and are far more important to the consumer than organic produce.
In 2007, concerned by the "food versus fuel" debate associated with using virgin palm oil - which includes the destruction of rainforests and diverting agricultural land away from food production - 3663 pioneered trials to use recycled waste vegetable oil as a more sustainable biofuel in our fleet.
Waste oil is now collected from existing suppliers and customers. We've increased the quantity of biodiesel produced this year by 40% to an end of year total of 2.8 million litres, which equates to a saving of around 6,300 tonnes of CO2 compared with standard diesel.
The future starts now
Consumer pressure is growing on companies to conduct business in an ethical and sustainable manner. Although a large proportion of customers are price sensitive, the conscientious consumer understands that sustainable products currently come at a premium and with public pressure growing to "do the right thing", they will spend the money to ensure their own role in building a strong future. One need only turn to popular culture and observe the large number of documentaries that have become talking points in recent times.
We must maximise our sustainability efforts. 3663 has immersed itself and, rather than being a board-level decision that is enforced throughout the business, it has been embraced by every single employee in the company and they actively work to minimise their impact on the environment.
It is our responsibility to engage like-minded partners to build a future with strong sustainability foundations. Without it there will not be a tomorrow worth looking forward to.