When we think of ‘sustainability’, chances are most of us will think about recycling and reducing our carbon footprint. Actually, sustainability is defined by Oxford Languages as “the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level”.
The UN has developed 17 sustainable development goals to help ensure a sustainable future for us all. These goals range from improving health and wellbeing right through to affordable and clean energy. It’s not all about doing our bit for the environment, though admittedly this is still high on the agenda.
Taking inspiration from these sustainability development goals, let’s look at the best way businesses can improve their sustainability post-COVID.
Build more sustainable supply chains
Reopening your venue is a great time to evaluate your network of suppliers and analyse each of them. Could you work with local, more sustainable suppliers instead?
Working with a nearby supplier increases your produce’s sustainability as it has lower environmental impact thanks to less travel, and also boosts your local economy. You’re able to trace exactly where your food has come from, too, which means you can confidently assure your customer that you know your fresh, local produce is of the best quality.
It’s also a great time do to a bit of research about the produce you buy that does come from a bit further afield too. Make sure your products are fairly traded and purchased from ethical suppliers.
Put people at the core of your business
Your venue should prioritise its people, ensuring all staff are treated fairly and given equal opportunities. This includes training staff and offering clear progression and development goals of their own. It almost goes without saying that you should aim to develop a discrimination-free, inclusive workplace that embraces diversity. Your equality and diversity policies and business structure should reflect this. For example, your venue should have transparent recruitment practices and an environment that is open and welcoming to people of diverse backgrounds.
You should take the opportunity to educate staff about their own environmental responsibility at work For example, staff should know how to reduce waste and be as passionate as your business is when it comes to ensuring sustainability. This will help you to achieve your environmental goals.
Employee health and wellbeing should form part of your sustainable development goals. You should have clear policies in place to keep employees happy and healthy, always ensuring your business is treating its people correctly. This will not only boost employee wellbeing, morale and engagement but it will encourage employees to be more productive whilst at work too. Practical considerations include treating staff fairly – don’t enforce unpaid overtime, pass on tips and service charge fairly and equally and ensure equal pay. Download our night-time industry wellbeing pack for more tips and advice.
One of the UN’s sustainable development goals is creating job opportunities for the youth. We should work to ensure young people see a career in hospitality as desirable with training and progression opportunities.
Be part of the community
Every commercial business’s ultimate goal is to make money, but your venue can be so much more than that.The hospitality and leisure industry is all about supporting people and providing unforgettable experiences.
Go one step further and engage with the local community by partnering with a charity that means something to you or your team members. This allows your venue to give something back and support the community you’re already a huge part of. We’ve noticed many establishments supporting local people through the COVID-19 pandemic, with venues being transformed into food banks or venue owners delivering essentials to the locals. It’s this kind of invaluable community spirit that proves your venue always puts its people first.
Consider the wider community, too. One of the UN’s sustainable development goals is “No Poverty”, so it’s a great idea to donate what we don’t use to those who need it most. Again, partnering with a charitable organisation to ensure you meet your goals could be a great way forward.
Reduce food waste
If you’re working with local suppliers, you will need to consider developing a seasonal menu – even if it’s just for garnishing your drinks! Be creative in the way you develop this menu in order to reduce waste and save costs. For example – what foods or garnishes do you normally have leftover? Find innovative ways to incorporate these ingredients into other dishes or drinks on your menu.
It’s also worthwhile considering your portion size. Does every drink on the menu really need all that fruit (that might often be wasted)? Are you going OTT on certain dishes and finding customers regularly leave plenty of food due to large portion sizes? Evaluate this regularly and ensure your team are doing all they can to minimise waste.
Think about what you’ll do with the waste you do have leftover. Could you donate this to good causes, or ensure it’s disposed of for composting?
Improve your menu
We’ve already offered advice about about sourcing food from local farmers, fishermen and suppliers so you know the source of all of your ingredients. This includes using British, high welfare meat and dairy products where possible. Concentrate on the fish dishes on your menu, too. Don’t use endangered fish species and work with sustainable suppliers.
As most of us know, eating less meat will help the environment no end. Why not increase the proportion of vegetarian and vegan meals on your menu, or ensure all meals incorporate at least two portions of vegetables?
Most venues disclose the calories of each dish on the menu and cater to a variety of dietary needs, but you can go one step further by offering further menu flexibility. Cater to your customers’ needs by offering vegetarian alternatives to meat-led dishes or offering healthier cooking options for the health-conscious.
Consider your environmental impact
Use energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs and manage your water usage. We’ve written previously about improving sustainability at your venue. This includes eliminating single-use plastic, buying green energy, avoiding cooking on gas, installing LED lights, using sustainable packaging, minimising waste sent to landfill and separating recyclable waste effectively.
Communicate with your customers
Change is often a good thing. However, you mustn’t assume your customers will always appreciate new ideas, menu changes and innovation. Let your customers know why you’re changing things up. Explain why your menu is seasonal and how you’re working to improve sustainability by getting creative with your menu and its ingredients. A page on your website or on the back of your menu will educate and inform customers, and encourage them to get behind your goals.
So you’ve done all the hard work. Why not seek official certification for sustainability? This could include seeking an ISO certification. You could also seek the Green Restaurant Certification amongst other sector-specific accreditations and certifications. While these may not offer a great ROI, simply following the application process and taking inspiration from the factors you must consider to achieve certification will help your venue to become more sustainable.
Develop an effective sustainability framework
It’s no good having these areas of improvement in the back of your mind. They must be implemented in practical terms, either woven into your business operations or policies. In many cases, these goals may already intersect with areas of your operations.
Food Made Good is a great resource for venues. Striving to create a sustainable foodservice industry, the organisation promotes best practice and provides an industry standard rating to help businesses benchmark success. There’s even a database of sustainable contacts to help your establishment achieve its goals.
Sustainability isn’t about promoting your business to eco-conscious customers, jumping on the bandwagon or doing the bare minimum. It’s a holistic way of running your venue that ensures sustainable measures are taken wherever possible. The benefits of sustainability impact our planet, your people and ultimately your business.