As we wrote in our letter to all SRA Members earlier this week, whether you voted to leave the EU or not, everyone will have to deal with the consequences and seek to use the opportunity to create positive change.
What effect, you might well ask, is Brexit likely to have on your business from a sustainability point of view? Best probably to assess it through the prism of our Three Pillars: Sourcing, Society and Environment.
Restaurants focused on British ingredients look likely to have an advantage over those more reliant on imported products. More than a quarter of food eaten in the UK in 2015 was imported from the EU, according to a report by food policy expert Tim Lang. That figure rises to 40% for fresh produce. The National Farmers Union expects prices to rise, at least in the short term. And, if we lose subsidies on these imports and they become subject to tariffs, then they’ll inevitably become more expensive.
On a positive note, Farmers Weekly reported yesterday that retail experts Kantar are predicting a boost for British farmers and for businesses with well established, positive relationships with British farmers.
The EU has played a significant role in the furthering of animal welfare standards, but Compassion in World Farming has spelled out its clear intention to continue to campaign for better conditions for farm animals.
What of fish? Well, while Britain’s fishing industry was used as a political football during the campaign, as the ripples ebb away, what starts to become clear is that little is likely to happen in the short term. Negotiations on quotas look set to be lengthy, but shouldn’t affect catches in the foreseeable future. WWF has called on the government to use the opportunity to create a “coherent plan for maintaining and conserving the marine environment as a whole, while continuing to work with the international community.”
One of the concerns raised most quickly and volubly by the industry following last week’s vote has centred around labour. A straw poll of SRA Members on Friday morning found there was real concern about and amongst the workforce. With more than a quarter being foreign born, what would their status be and how would businesses fill those vacancies, if they became open?
The BHA Hospitality and Tourism Summit saw a number of people express concern about skills shortages while Mayor of London Sadiq Khan sought to reassure the 1 million European workers in the capital, saying they would remain welcome.
As the industry assesses the employment landscape in the months ahead, we’ll be looking to showcase the many SRA Members who are developing career paths through apprenticeships and extensive training programmes as well as provide advice, information and support to help others develop their workforce.
While farming, fishing and labour were widely debated during the campaign, the environment was not. As Craig Bennett of Friends of the Earth wrote this week, that may end up being a positive, as no one claim the result as a mandate to remove hard-fought protections – for the UK to again become the “dirty man of Europe”. With 70% of legislation affecting the environment emanating from the EU, what will happen?
Some of the early indications are positive. Energy Secretary Amber Rudd today announced that the UK will stick to its target to reduce carbon emissions by 57% by 2032. And despite concerns in many quarters about the UK’s commitment to ratifying the Paris Agreement, Christina Figueres, the UN’s climate chief said she believed it will happen.
The scrapping of the Common Agricultural Policy could lead to more land in the UK supporting wildlife-rich habitats as there’ll be no incentive to leave land bare. And on the subject of the land, the EU decided this week to re-license the herbicide glyphosate – but for 18 months rather than the usual 15 years as concerns remain about its safety to human health. That leaves the UK government with the chance to change that policy in the coming months.
When it comes to food waste,Philip Sampson, Commercial Director of ReFood says the Government can now implement a ban on food waste to landfill.
We’ll continue to monitor developments and pass the news on to you.