Hospitality trade urged to step up to the plate on climate action

Foodservice firms across the country have been called upon to accelerate efforts to tackle climate change, through a new report by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA).

The SRA is calling on hospitality firms to bolster their climate, plastic and meat-reduction actions

The SRA is calling on hospitality firms to bolster their climate, plastic and meat-reduction actions

The report, titled The Tastiest Challenge on the Planet, reveals the UK hospitality trade has not reacted fast enough on key sustainability issues. It is currently ranked twenty-fourth in the global food sustainability league table, compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition Foundation.

The SRA's chief executive Andrew Stephen said: “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.

“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.” 

Many of the 6,700 chefs and business leaders interviewed for the report said they were reluctant to dictate change, feeling more comfortable “facilitating a movement”. But the SRA said it is now time for “a more proactive approach” and called for a three-pronged action plan to be implemented: reducing meat on the menu, food in the bin and single-use plastics.

The SRA also wants accelerated changes in line with targets set by WRAP in its Plastics Pact and Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, as well as the World Resources Institute’s Cool Food Pledge. These targets aim to cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030 and food waste by 25% by 2025 respectively. 

‘Missed opportunity’

The SRA report highlights successes in the area of reducing plastic straws across the hospitality trade, but also reveals that a third of SRA members still offer takeaway packaging that is not recyclable, reusable or compostable. The organisation also said simply adding a salad or vegetarian option to a menu was “insufficient”. Instead, businesses should look at the efforts of casual dining chains like Zizzi and Wagamama, who have rebalanced their menus but still enjoyed an uplift in sales.

Failure to measure, monitor, set reduction targets, redistribute surplus or offer customers the opportunity to take home leftovers was also an “enormous missed opportunity”, the SRA claimed.

Food waste and livestock farming account for more than 20% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, while foodservice still wastes almost one million tonnes of food and meat continues to dominate menus.  The potential benefits from reducing food waste are significant. If the foodservice industry reduced food waste by a quarter, it could cut its carbon emissions by just under a million tonnes a year (0.9Mt) – the equivalent of 2,000 London to New York return flights.

The SRA’s Stephen added: “If everyone matched the performance of the best operators in these areas, then collectively we would achieve huge gains.

“The whole sector needs to act now, because if we don’t fix food, we can’t fix climate change.”

James Evison



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