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A sustainable future starts in the present

11 October 2007
A sustainable future starts in the present

Food service supplier 3663 has taken steps to implement sustainable business practices and seeks to involve its like-minded partners in building a green future

It does not take a crystal ball to realise that if we don't consider the impact that our actions have on the environment, we will not have a future to build towards. Reducing our impact on the resources around us is fundamental to our business, and by sharing 3663 best practice we hope to inspire others to bring sustainability into the heart of their operations. If we don't, the outlook will be grim.

What areas are going to become more important in the future? There are three key issues around the world that will directly impact the tomorrow we are working towards: available energy resources, product inflation, and the "people explosion".

Much has been written on all three areas, and I would like to focus instead on the key matters that directly affect us.

Local flavours

Local sourcing is an area that will continue to gain importance. This will not necessarily be reflected in monetary values and financial returns, but it has a key role to play in the hospitality industry. I take our own local sourcing division as an example: from humble beginnings it now incorporates more than 470 products from 60 producers. We currently cover close on 85% of the country, and we should be able to supply local products on a national basis by the end of the year.

Consumers are expecting local products to feature prominently on menus, and they are willing to pay a premium for them. Recent surveys have found that food products that are locally sourced and/or have 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. This trend is set to continue as consumers consider their own role in creating a sustainable future.

Healthy living equals healthy food

The quest to find healthier food options will continue to gain momentum. Certain pockets of the population have exponentially increased their personal wealth and they are now searching for the answer to eternal youth in order to prolong their existence.

One needs only to look at the weekly headlines to see where the quest for life is taking us. "Superfood" is a fairly recent buzz word, and although the term has been around for more than a decade, it seems to have finally cemented itself into the local vernacular. New products are added to the superfood list virtually every day, and rather than considering it a fad, consumers are embracing the products in the hope that they will prolong and encourage a healthy future.

The future starts now

• Pressure is growing on companies to conduct business in an ethical and sustainable manner. Although you will always have a proportion of customers who are price-aware, 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.

• We must maximise our sustainability efforts. 3663 has immersed itself in the concept, and rather than being a board-level decision enforced throughout the business, it has been embraced by every employee in the company. They actively work to minimise their impact on the environment, from sharing cars for the drive to work to considering how every piece of material can be recycled.

• Consolidation of supply will be key to driving sustainability. Through careful planning we have been able to significantly reduce the number of road miles driven by our trucks every year, and we are always looking for new ways to improve our efficiency levels. Suffice to say that irresponsible management of products will not be tolerated in the future.

We are here now, and 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.

Fred Barnes, chief executive, 3663 First for Foodservice

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