OPINION: Sustainability comes of age in pubs and hospitality

Progress made: businesses are moving in the right way
Progress made: businesses are moving in the right way

Related tags Hamish Stoddart Sustainability

I attended Planet Peach – the hospitality Sustainability Summit – this week and Which?, the consumer magazine, released a sustainability report on pubs and restaurants.

The conference was filled with paying customers. Sustainability is no longer the chosen route for just a few enthusiasts, it has become mainstream.

Wahaca came top of the Which? report but for Frankie & Benny and Young’s Pubs to be able to be rated highly means the mainstream has adopted sustainability practices.

It’s a moment.

Thanks to all those that supported Planet Peach, and those who made it happen. The enthusiasts were all there and as were many, many pub and restaurant companies.

Reducing impact on planet

We learnt a massive 70% of people actively try to live a more environmentally friendly life. Some 44% say sustainability affect their choice of pub or restaurant. Some of the biggest pub companies were talking through their progress with team engagement and savings through reduction of waste and power. Investors are already enjoying returns and we are reducing our impact on the planet.

It’s not that I and the other enthusiasts think the industry is moving fast enough or that we will definitely solve climate change and biodiversity – that’s still scarily far from certain. We haven’t yet got the planet to be No.1 on many hospitality businesses’ agenda. However, I can say a huge swathe of hospitality has put it firmly somewhere on their agenda. It’s a moment to celebrate progress to date.

What’s even better is the people attending. The Sustainability Professionals presented whether technical, communicators, supply chain and support businesses are impressive people able to teach, and shared ways of moving forward. Leaders of many businesses were there.

Hospitality is always brilliant at sharing good practices, it’s one of our strengths.

In sustainability, it seems people will actively push great ideas across the industry. Pubs helping restaurants and vice-versa. The creative leader, Tom Elliot of Pizza Pilgrims has potentially just found a way to reduce power usage dramatically in pizza ovens and, within days, its shared for everyone to use. We will be able to find the answers and share them.

No longer siloed away

Music to my ears is sustainability is now being integrated into everything that good businesses do. It’s no longer a department siloed away, it’s part of everyday process and plans. Only when we in hospitality accept the planet needs us to act differently every day to preserve the climate and environment will we make all the changes needed.

Language and how we talk about sustainability seems to be a challenge. Sustainability is not easy for newcomers and the average guest to our pubs to understand. I use “reduce Carbon footprint” a lot, only 22% completely understand that. And the word “sustainable”, only 26%. Bio-diversity is just 12%. This just means we have to keep our conversations with team and guests non-scientific and show and tell what we are up to. They know and understand seasonal produce, local sourcing, waste, recycling – we don’t have to explain the power reduction plans that save the big money.

I still fear we aren’t helping the smaller businesses, the tenants, the independent pubs get to grips with sustainability and how they can join in and win from being better. These are the same businesses facing all the cost crisis issues that the bigger ones with one hundredth of the resource to make change. Independent pubs and restaurants are part of the British way of life. Big business and Government and sustainability experts know the answers. I really hope we all can help the independents survive AND do the right thing.

So sustainability has come of age and that’s a wonderful moment.

Let’s challenge ourselves to keep fast enough to the industry goals. The UK’s goal is net zero by 2050. UK hospitality and its members have agreed a goal of net zero by 2040. Most larger companies have 2030 checkpoint – 2030 isn’t far away. We all know climate change will affect us all. Every small step gets us closer to the answer we all need.

Related topics Sustainability

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