Trend-spotting, progress checking and a clear assessment of what more needs to be done and how it can be achieved. That’s what you look for in a ‘state of the nation’ style report. And that’s exactly what you get from the Footprint Sustainability Index Trends Report 2016 published this week by Footprint and supported by Bidvest and Plate2Planet.

The report provides an excellent barometer for the industry. There’s a plethora of good practice highlighted, but there is also a pretty lengthy report card. As the report says, there are leaders and laggards!

The report assesses the industry’s performance over six main focus areas:

Supply chain

Natural resources

Energy and emissions

Health and vitality

Waste and

Employees and local communities

While a good deal of the attention is on large food manufacturers and big restaurant and catering groups, the excellent practices of some smaller businesses, including SRA Members like Vacherin, for their work sourcing wonky veg and Grain Store for shining a light on the delights of vegetables are also used as examples for others to follow. Trends and good practice can flow both ways, from big business down and vice versa. Neither has a monopoly on good ideas.

Of the trends and issues for businesses to attend to, we’ve picked out three of particular note:

Water

The report describes water as the ‘new carbon’. The water footprint in food waste is equivalent to three and half times the volume of Lake Geneva. Makes you shiver just thinking about it doesn’t it. The report praises foodservice for tackling water use on site with innovations like timer controls and waterless urinals, but says the industry is lagging behind when it comes to embedded water. Did you know a chocolate bar requires 1430 litres and the average cup of coffee, 136 litres?

The report recommends a number of useful steps for businesses, suggesting they assess water impacts and risks, use the best technology to reduce operational impacts and be ready for deregulation in 2017. This is expected to see water conservation rise up the agenda as providers compete.

Sustainable menus and ‘adopting a nutritional lens’

Adopting a 360 degree approach is the best way to ensure a truly healthy offering for consumers, the report says, adding that health and vitality is very high on the consumer agenda – presenting a ‘massive business opportunity’.  Those businesses that provide healthy balanced meals and actively promote them are the most successful in this sphere. The report identifies this as a major gap in chefs’ knowledge and recommends ongoing training.

Collaboration

Finally, and of course we’ve only picked out some highlights but you can read much more, there’s a clarion call for increased collaboration. It says: “Collaboration is the new watchword with the most innovative, effective solutions being found through partnership.”

As the report concludes, “we can keep on blindly cooking as the planet burns, or we can build on our successes to share best practice and continually push for better, more sustainable systems and solutions to ensure foodservice takes responsibility for its share of impacts and emissions.”

So that’s a taster of the report. We’d recommend tucking into the whole report when you have a minute or two.