Sustainability in the hospitality industry

Cafe2U's CEO, Martyn Ward, offers insight on the direction the industry can take on the back of COP26

With the UK having hosted the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow recently – and the fallout from it still fresh in most people’s minds – there has never been a better time for British businesses to focus on their impact on the environment.

After welcoming world-renowned figures including Joe Biden, David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg and the Queen, the conference focussed on applying pressure to the planet’s largest polluting nations while also considering what other nations can do to secure a ‘net zero’ future. Closer to home though, what can businesses in the UK catering industry do to implement and work towards their own sustainability targets?

Firstly, it is important to look at your everyday business operations to see if there are any instant changes you can make to minimise your carbon footprint. These quick wins will usually look like ‘going paperless’ by removing all paper from head office communications, swapping energy suppliers to one of the increasing number of ‘green energy’ providers or swapping your light bulbs for energy efficient lighting, such as LED or other energy saving bulbs.

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Once these more obvious changes have been ticked off, it is time to take a closer look at how your operations can be future-proofed to factor in your sustainability goals. For instance, companies with fleets of vehicles are increasingly looking to switch from petrol power to all-electric alternatives. Mobile caterers, such as those in the coffee industry, can further reduce their carbon footprints by trading diesel generators for emission-free lithium-ion batteries.

There are also a whole host of additional operational benefits these changes can bring. As well as being better for the environment, electric vehicles will enable caterers to access indoor events and emission-free zones, solidifying their pro-sustainability message further still.

Beyond that, further gains can be made by testing the accountability of your supply chain and, if you are part of a franchise, your franchise partners, to ensure all parties are similarly engaged at each stage of the sustainability journey. For those selling sandwiches, for example, this could mean switching suppliers to one which uses only 100% recyclable packaging. It’s these external factors that are often missed when businesses look at their sustainability profile.

It is also important to recognise that although changes can take a while to implement and roll out across a network, these are often incremental steps that will slowly begin to drive improvements as soon as they are implemented. Similarly, while some technologies and developments will require some investment, it is important to view this as an investment in the future of not just your business, but also the future of your staff, partners and customers too. At a time when individuals and organisations across the globe are placing sustainability at the forefront of their decision-making, taking a long-term view has never been more important.

When the world leaders gathered in Glasgow, it became apparent that there has never been a more critical time for businesses to ensure their pro-sustainability messaging remains consistent across their entire operation by establishing their own set of in-house sustainable practices to which all their employees and associates can adhere. For those in the catering and hospitality industries, doing so will establish your company as a leader in the fight against climate change; failure to do so will risk it being left behind by those who do.

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