Restaurant sector urged to speed up efforts on sustainability

By Stefan Chomka contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sustainability, Restaurant

UK restaurants need to redouble their efforts to tackle climate change and environmental damage, according to a new report published today (28 February) by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA).

In its The Tastiest Challenge on the Planet​ report the SRA says that while there has been pockets of progress on the big sustainability issues, the pace of change is nowhere near fast nor widespread enough. The report points to the UK ranking at number 24th in the global food sustainability league table compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition Foundation.

The report evaluates the state of sustainability in the UK foodservice sector, including a review of what operators have done in 2018, an assessment of the pressing challenges ahead, its preparedness for tackling them, and a three-pronged action plan for the industry for 2019 and beyond. It includes insights and ideas from the boardrooms of some of the UK’s largest pub and restaurant groups, including Azzurri Group and JD Wetherspoon.

“The scale and urgency of the issues facing the planet are huge. We need to challenge what we call normal, or good enough in hospitality in the UK,” says Andrew Stephen, chief executive of the SRA. “While the industry is taking lots of small steps, they aren’t keeping pace with the scope of what is needed.

“It is no longer sufficient simply to talk about being a sustainable business without targeting bigger change on the biggest issues.”  

According to the SRA, many of the chefs and business leaders interviewed for the report revealed that they were reluctant to dictate change, feeling more comfortable facilitating a movement. The time has come for a more proactive approach, it says.

“The whole sector needs to act now, because if we don’t fix food, we can’t fix climate change,” says Stephen. “It’s time to seize the opportunity to embrace meaningful change towards a more restorative model, capturing customers’ desire for more sustainable menus, growing pressure from investors to see the businesses they have a stake in tackling the big issues and the environmental imperative to avoid climate catastrophe.”

The SRA is calling for accelerated, measurable and tangible changes in line with the achievable targets set by WRAP, in its Plastics Pact and Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, and the World Resources Institute’s Cool Food Pledge. It says it is committed to increasing engagement with all three of these programmes to cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030, reduce the foodservice sector’s food waste by 25% by 2025 and meet the four targets set in the Plastics Pact.

It cites examples where businesses have demonstrated leadership, includin Costa Coffee, which is collaborating with cup makers and the waste industry to make it possible to recycle 100 million cups a year and has extended the scheme’s impact by opening it up to four of the other big players in the market, Caffè Nero, Greggs, McDonald’s and Pret A Manger.

“UK restaurants alone use a tiny amount of global resources, but their ability to make the weather and influence how people feel about sustainability and food is massive,” says Henry Dimbleby, founder of Leon and a non-exec board member of DEFRA. “And what we do, others in the world will follow.”

Related topics: Trends & Reports

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