The industry can help to tackle climate change and show environmental leadership with energy efficiency. Ian Pearson, climate change and environment minister, explains how
I believe the hospitality and catering sector can play a key role in tackling climate change.
By showing environmental leadership through increasing energy efficiency and using sustainable procurement you can make a real difference in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, as well as sending the right signals to your customers.
In July, through the Energy Review, the Government announced it will look at ways to cut carbon emissions from large commercial and public-sector organisations, including hotel chains.
The review includes the Emissions Trading Scheme proposal, covering about 5,000 organisations, which could reduce emissions by 1.2 million tonnes of carbon per year by 2020.
Although we are not aiming to include small, independent hotels - as their costs could be prohibitive - larger hotel chains would be included, as it would be cost-effective for them to participate. We hope to put proposals out for full consultation shortly. But the sector's impact goes much further than its direct energy use.
Latest EU figures found 31% of the EU's greenhouse gas emissions came from the food and farming sectors. This reinforces the importance of the Government's increasing focus on the need for sustainability in its procurement and contracts.
For example Aramark, contract caterer for an increasing number of public contracts, has developed a strategy to remove barriers restricting trade with small, local suppliers by creating a local "hub" network nationally. This provides suppliers with easier market access by enabling them to drop produce off at a set depot, thereby reducing fuel costs and emissions.
Small and medium-sized companies wanting to tackle climate change - and their bills - can get support from the Carbon Trust in the form of interest-free loans which can be used to upgrade lighting, fit more energy-efficient boilers and even raise awareness of the issues among employees.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is also in the process of developing a sustainable events guide to share best practice when organising events, and is aiming to launch in early 2007.
Finally, I would urge everyone in the hospitality sector to show leadership through sustainability.
How can Goverment encourage a green industry?
Diana Spellman, managing director, Partners in Purchasing
"The Government needs to provide more information and a better infrastructure for commercial recycling in the same way as it does with domestic waste removal. I live in a rural area where a wide-ranging recycling system was introduced. If the same programmes were to be introduced on a commercial level, companies would recycle a lot more."
Jose Soriano, general manager, Four Seasons Hotel Canary Wharf, London "Government needs to communicate with businesses on a deeper level. There is a lot of best practice in the UK, and a lot is being achieved in terms of the country being environmentally friendly. But perhaps the Government needs to communicate its targets better and tell industry what the goals are."
Mike Hanson, head of environmental management, BaxterStorey
"Although we are running a delivery van on recycled cooking oil, which makes it effectively carbon neutral, we are still being forced to pay congestion charges. This does not encourage anybody to run their vehicles on alternative fuel and this is something the Government should really look into changing."
Ken Arkley, commercial director, Hand Picked Hotels
"Additional tax breaks would encourage businesses to become more environmentally aware. But the Government also needs to engage more with businesses on a local level and provide more information, as it doesn't seem to be very good at presenting them with alternative ideas and programmes."
For more on green issues go to Caterer's Green Zone