OPINION

Everyone has to start saving the planet soon

We have to change: Hamish Stoddart is also a coach or non-executive to other smaller businesses.
We have to change: Hamish Stoddart is also a coach or non-executive to other smaller businesses.

Related tags Social responsibility Sustainability Hamish Stoddart Peach Pubs Pubco + head office Punch pubs

COP26 was the moment the UK and our industry came together to commit to try to play our part in keeping global warming to below 1.5°C.

For me, it was a time to show leadership in attempting to go faster than most towards Net Zero.

My business Peach Pubs pushed forward and we gathered a gang of hospitality sustainability enthusiasts to learn together how NetZero is possible. We learned a lot, the findings of which have been published here in the Race to Net Zero report​.

I believed then and I believe now that we can get to Net Zero. And those that go fast will be better off.

COP28 is just finishing as I write this and, like all the countries and delegates there talking about global fossil fuel systems, two years on we, in hospitality, have all learned a lot about the challenges and focus it will take to get our industry to deliver Net Zero.

The countries find themselves in utterly different positions and therefore different opinions about timing and the methods. Leaders face challenges at home while acknowledging the shared challenge.

The developing countries need to remove coal and all fossil fuels but they don’t feel able to commit to the timetables that will preserve our global goal. The developed countries need to finance change to allow change to accelerate but they don’t feel able to commit the funds. It’s not going to be easy, yet we must carry on committing to the goal; we all need a planet that is sustainable.

We know a lot of the steps to get there

The UK’s goal is net zero by 2050. UKHospitality and its members have agreed a goal of net zero by 2040. The great news is we do now know a lot of the steps to get there.

Zero Carbon Forum (ZCF) is dedicated to helping to share all the lessons and getting all types of hospitality to achieve this goal. It’s a great resource for all of hospitality. Any business adopting all the solutions ZCF and other consultants already know will be able to lower their footprint by 20% to 50%. Supplies bought will make up most of the rest. Many of the businesses in our supply chain are starting their journey. They too find their hospitality customers are reacting differently.

I guess the real question two years on is ‘how much progress each of our pub and hospitality business have made towards the goal of zero by 2040?’ Are you acknowledging it? Already making change happen? Going the whole way? Or ignoring it?

I haven’t seen a survey that tells me the answer today. What I observe is almost all the bigger companies and suppliers have invested in sustainability professional, project teams and consultants, and the change is already starting to happen.

Products, systems and solutions are emerging. And their profits aren’t suffering as a result of these changes. That’s great news because they are willing to share. The bigger businesses will achieve substantial change by 2030 and Net Zero by 2040 is achievable. If you want to learn, have a look at UKH Net Zero Roadmap from ZCF​.

Having said that, most of them currently balk at investing in projects to sequester or offset their carbon to help get to Net Zero. Ultimately, every business will need to do this. If we don’t, I suspect there will have to be a carbon tax to get the whole of the UK to Net Zero. And those who have not started could have a major tax issue to face. Investors and owners won’t like the uncertainty.

The sustainability enthusiasts and best of the mid-sized businesses and small businesses are also making good progress, and are often the best at moving to better menus and supply chains – and even going to B Corp status.

Many yet to act

However, many, and it’s probably a majority of smaller businesses, are not yet measuring their footprint nor accessing the help available to change. Like the countries in COP28, we all find ourselves in different situations. I understand that yet the answers are now available. Just spend a little time to understand how the answers already worked out are good for profit and planet. Try ZCF above or NetZeroNow​.

What I hope is that everyone is starting to acknowledge they have to start soon.

Everyone should. We all want our kids to have a planet to live on. Our teams know we have to change. And the start is easy. A lot of carbon emissions are produced by waste and by reducing waste in electricity, gas, plastic, glass and food, every business can be stronger.

There are fantastic examples of increasing profit while helping the planet. There are better and better systems, and ways of working all being shared. I still think the biggest profit gains arise from your team and customers reacting to your commitment.

Peach Pubs – the business I founded – has industry leading engagement and loyalty from the team in part because we do the right thing for the planet, as well the people.

Guests who care and are proactive number about 20% of the total and that figure is growing – and they spend more too in places that do actively explain what they are doing. Pubs and restaurants are recognising this and those that don’t will fall behind. Apparently, there’s a percentage figure for customers at which we reach a tipping point, where it all becomes a social norm. I’ll be pushing for that.

Can sustainability create profit? Most definitely. Is it better to start now? Yes.

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