When we face such huge challenges in our food system, we are forced to ask the question: how much is ‘enough’ for a business to do on sustainability? 

By Andrew Stephen, CEO, SRA

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The scale and urgency of the issues facing the planet have never been writ larger. Sir David Attenborough’s plastic plea in Blue Planet II at the start of the year and the chilling report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at the end, were just two of the resounding warnings sounded in 2018 stressing the need for immediate action to keep the planet’s temperature rise below 1.5C. These, plus a number of other major scientific reports published in 2018, are stark reminders that we all need to act, act now and in doing so go further and faster than we have ever done before.
The stars are aligning. Diners are looking for a closer connection to their food and greater purpose from the people providing it, and say they are willing to pay for it.
Hospitality’s 3m strong workforce want greater fulfillment in their roles that can only come from making a better business in the widest possible sense.
Influencers are vocally backing those who are making these changes.

Government and policy are playing catchup fast, trying to implement ways to reward those commercially for doing the right thing. There’s never been a more important or opportune time to be bold and take big steps. But what does that mean for one restaurant or a single pub? How can they aim to set their ambition at a level that is both achievable and meaningful? What does ‘sustainable restaurant’ mean in the context of insufficient incrementalism across the whole system- when the sum of our collective ambition still exceeds our planetary limits?

For us, a truly sustainable food business is one that has a restorative impact on the land, and the people upon which it depends. Restorative in this context means that because the business operates, the land and the people touched along the way (all the way from farmer and field to employee and diner) are left in a better place because of its existence.

 

 

Our panel of policy makers and academics are unanimous in their belief that chefs and foodservice businesses have a huge part to play in influencing eating habits. They are more important influencers than social media, according to Professor Riccardo Valentini, an advisory board member of the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition.

 

 

 

He added: “Restaurants are nowadays our homes and even more our social spaces. Any individual changes to lifestyle and contributions towards a sustainable future should start from here.”

The evidence suggests that the industry is not yet fulfilling this role. Will Nicholson, of the Food Climate Research Network (FCRN) and Food Foundation, told us: “I have carried out a review of the out of home sector’s disclosure around their climate change policies and actions and there is very little evidence of significant change through menu redesign, marketing policy or zero deforestation sourcing. This is especially problematic in the high street/ casual dining sector.”

 

 

 

 

In the year ahead, we’ll be focussed on three areas where the status quo of UK hospitality is having the most negative impact on the planet and on people. These are also areas in which we see the greatest potential for positive change within the sector. Juliane Caillouette-Noble, SRA Development Director, said:

 

 

 


The Sustainable Restaurant Association is calling on the whole foodservice sector to take on the tastiest challenge on the planet.
This is a report about the state of sustainability in the UK foodservice sector – a review of what operators have done in 2018, an assessment of the pressing challenges ahead, it’s preparedness for tackling them, and an action plan for the industry for 2019 and beyond.