Green Paper 2012: How sustainable is the UK hospitality industry?

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Hotel

The Gram Green Paper reviews the UK foodservice industry’s attitude and behaviour towards a greener and more environmentally responsible future
The Gram Green Paper reviews the UK foodservice industry’s attitude and behaviour towards a greener and more environmentally responsible future
The 2012 Gram Green Paper – a study into the hospitality industry’s attitudes towards sustainability – has been released, providing a comprehensive review of the sustainable attitudes and behaviours within the hotel, restaurant and pub sectors. 

The report uncovered a strong ambition to improve sustainability initiatives across all three sectors, with 83 per cent of hoteliers, 79 per cent of restaurateurs and 63 per cent of pub landlords wanting their business to be greener than it is now.


As the keenest hospitality sector to be greener, the majority of hoteliers (53 per cent) actually believe that they do not have the financial capabilities to realise this ambition.

Twenty-five per cent of respondents cited some form of energy saving as a personal green initiative they had introduced, but there were no specific mentions of large equipment purchasing. Of the 62 per cent of hotel respondents that identified a barrier, budget restrictions were cited by 53 per cent.

One hotel respondent wrote: “Most people are paid hourly, so time spent recycling is an extra cost.”

John Firrell, director of the Considerate Hoteliers Association, said: “I am not surprised by the overall findings of the report. They reflect the feelings we hold at Considerate Hoteliers, that muchmore effective communication must be carried out and training of staff undertaken to dispel the myths that exist about ‘being green’.

“Investing in more energy-efficient equipment may in the short term require an investment but the return is quick, and will often represent a substantial saving in the long-term. The myth that embracing green technology and policies represents an inevitable price to pay by the guest must be exploded. It may often give the hotelier the means to be more competitive.”

Case study:​ With an ever-growing number of customers booking accommodation based on the environmental credentials of the business, BigHospitality recently spoke to hotel giant Rezidor and Snowdonia-based Brynn Bella guest house to discover whether the long-term benefits of becoming more eco-friendly and sustainable outweigh the initial costs. Read our Ideas from your Peers column here.​ 

Key hotel findings from The Green Paper 2012:

  • Hotel respondents were most likely to have personally introduced energy saving initiatives (54 per cent)
  • They have been the channel with the highest number of respondents citing personal initiatives in each of the three Green Papers
  • Hotels were both the third most likely channel to describe their establishment as a green one, and the third keenest channel to become greener
  • However, the hotel respondents who believed that they could afford to be as green as they wanted was a minority (47 per cent) 


The majority of restaurant operators displayed an ambition to be greener and were also confident in their financial capacity to do so.

Restaurants were the most willing hospitality sector to pay a small increase to be greener (41 per cent). In keeping with this, the purchasing of more expensive, energy-efficient cooking equipment such as refrigeration and cookers were among a list of initiatives that individuals had introduced.

However, restaurants were the least likely sector to describe themselves as green; had the lowest number of respondents able to cite an important green initiative their establishment had in place and were also the lowest personal introducers of green initiatives.

One restaurateur cited: “Financially, we’re limited in the green initiatives that we put in place. Food waste recycling is almost impossible, the cost of replacing light bulbs alone can cost thousands of pounds. It is also difficult training staff to be environmentally conscious.”

Mark Linehan, managing director of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, said: “The fact that almost two thirds of restaurants describe the sector as a green one is encouraging.

“Inevitably, businesses will cite cost as a barrier. But the current period of austerity could prove to be the best time for restaurants to adopt more sustainable practices.

“Reducing waste, saving water and making more efficient use of energy can have a hugely positive impact on the costs of running the business.”

Key restaurant findings from The Green Paper 2012:

  • Restaurants were the channel least likely to describe themselves as green
  • In keeping with this, they were the channel least likely to have a green or environmental initiative in place
  • Only workplaces and universities were more willing than restaurants to pay a small increase in costs to become greener


Over recent years, pubs have been challenged by increasingly operational burdens with the introduction of new legislation, from extended licensing laws to the smoking ban.

The UK pub sector is largely dependent on the performance of the UK economy as a whole and the tightening of consumer spending, cost inflation and competition experienced by pubs has also taken its toll on their financial stability.

Consequently, financial inefficiencies have had a bearing on their ability to be green; forty-eight per cent of the respondents that cited barriers preventing them from being green specified cost.

“Being green is not the highest priority, immediate money saving is,” wrote one pub respondent. “Whilst in the long-term the two can be achieved simultaneously, for now we have to focus on the initial costs that come with adopting green policies.”

Glenn Roberts, managing director of Gram UK, said: “It was interesting to see that so many establishments were keen to make their business greener, despite the number of barriers that were preventing them from doing so.

“Inevitably, pubs found initial cost to be a significant barrier to being green at work, as they were not always able to wait for long-term savings to come into place due to uncertainty over future business performance.”

Key pub findings from The Green Paper 2012:

  • Pub respondents had the lowest aspirations to be greener
  • Pubs were also the channel most unwilling to pay an increase to become greener
  • In addition to this, they were the channel least likely to say that it is easy to be green

The Gram Green Paper is now in its third edition. To download your free copy, visit

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