In the race to a more sustainable future, carbon reduction and offsetting are vital pieces of the puzzle. The UK Government has committed to net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 – where net zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gasses that are produced into our atmosphere, and the amount removed. We reach net zero when the amount that we add is not more than the amount removed.
Businesses have a large part to play in meeting this essential and ambitious target. The hospitality sector is responsible for up to 15% of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK with a large portion of these emissions attributable to the supply chain. However, for a lot of businesses, the concept and reality of net zero can feel intangible and unachievable. That’s why we’re here to walk you through the steps to reducing your carbon footprint, and to share with you how we at the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) are doing this with our partners Net Zero Now.
Under the framework of our partners at Net Zero Now, reducing the carbon footprint of a hospitality business is a four-step process: 1) Calculate 2) Mitigate 3) Compensate and 4) Communicate.
Including all emissions is the foundation of a credible climate strategy. To do this, you need to work with a reliable provider (such as Net Zero Now), who calculate your carbon footprint. A carbon footprint refers to the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, service, place or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent. When calculating a carbon footprint, the calculator-providing companies will usually take into account all the emissions created from the business:
- Transport: including how products arrive, how staff get to work, what deliveries the restaurant makes, etc
- Utilities used: including water, gas, electricity, etc, as well as kinds of energy (e.g., dark green versus light green).
- Procurement: the purchasing of goods and services (e.g. the ingredients, furniture, decorations used).
- Waste: all kinds of waste produced, including biodegradable and non-biodegradable.
Once you know what your carbon footprint is, the next step is to plan reduction targets and reduce your footprint as much as you can. The provider you are using will often also analyse your data and set reduction target in compliance with the ambition criteria of the Science Based Targets Initiative. They usually will also offer advice on how to reach these targets, and provide you with the tools and resources to do so. The more you can mitigate, the better, because mitigation increases your savings, both environmentally and financially: the fewer resources you require, the less emissions you are creating, and the less you are paying.
What you cannot mitigate, you can compensate – also known as “offset.”. We accept that it is next to impossible to have any action which does not create emissions, and what we can’t reduce, we can compensate by carbon offsetting. The idea behind carbon offsetting is that the carbon emissions generated through an action (such as flying) can be calculated, and then the equivalent amount can be “paid off” via a scheme that removes carbon from the atmosphere (such as tree planting, soil, sea grasses, etc). This unit is often referred to as a ‘climate credit’. By buying carbon credits, businesses can positively contribute to carbon reduction in ways which otherwise would be outside their capabilities.
So, once you know exactly what your carbon footprint is and what it is after you’ve used reduction strategies, you can then offset the rest using an offsetting scheme. It is crucial any offsets purchased are of high quality, following the Oxford Principles and accredited by independent bodies such as Gold Standard.
Communication is key to making your practices reliable, and therefore, transparent. For a net zero strategy to be credible, businesses must communicate their emissions data, targets, reduction plans, and offsetting information. With the Green Claims Code in January 2022 quickly approaching, the pressure is going to be on businesses more than ever to ensure that their claims about their sustainability practices (e.g., that they are carbon neutral) are fully accurate. Communication about sustainability practices is also key to engaging customers, as sustainability is increasingly important to consumers.
Taking further steps
Lastly, although carbon reduction is an important part of the battle against climate change, and it is linked to many elements of sustainability, carbon isn’t the only measure of sustainability. When improving a business’ sustainability, it is also important to consider other elements, such as reducing single-use plastic, ensuring that the fish served is sustainably sourced, avoiding using products that can be detrimental to the environment (e.g. palm oil), ensuring that your business is socially sustainable (e.g. treat staff fairly, support the community), and more.
To learn more about the sustainability issues related to foodservice, visit foodmadegood.org
Entegra are a team of 150 specialists operating predominantly in the UK and across Europe who work in partnership with 800+ businesses and 200 suppliers in the UK alone. We negotiate on behalf of our clients to find them the best possible proposals and solutions available to them and within their own objectives. Our team is made up of former operators, chefs, analysts and buyers.