Footprint Blog


Posted in Comment,Credit Crunch,Diet,Economics,Food Miles,Food Trends,Produce,Provenance,Sustainability by foodservicefootprint on May 5, 2009

We must distinguish CSR from Green issues and recognise that these can occasionally conflict! These two subjects every now and again blur into a grey area that is naturally assumed to be the same genre, thus causing confusion between ecological awareness and the responsibility that corporations have to reinvest a proportion of their profits in the community.

Let us, for arguments sake, untangle these intertwined issues: the corporate responsibility on issues of community/social and green topics, respectively, are separate themes motivated by different forces and impacting our world in a variety of ways. It is assumed that corporations reinvesting profits into schemes that add value to the community and the environment are indeed charitable activities and naturally all fall into the realms of a business’s footprint.

We have been researching a piece on food waste in foodservice and fine dining, in which the grey area between CSR and environmental issues is most apparent. A great deal of material addressing this issue is about giving wasted food to the homeless. An example of this is the Pret Foundation Trust, a hugely noble cause and obviously a CSR policy. Surely we should be looking at the source of the problem of food waste rather than its negation by means of a good deed within the community. Rather than justifying food waste by charitable means, could it be addressed at source?

By giving food that otherwise would be thrown in the bin to the less fortunate, it is by definition no longer ‘wasted’, and this is something we wholeheartedly encourage and promote. But the flip side is that even the very notion of giving food away in this manner could be argued to be not a ‘waste of resources’ but some form of moral justification.

Let me put this to you; could it be argued that with better portion control, more conscientious ordering processes and greater operational diligence, the produce and the products that are feeding the homeless or are simply thrown in the bin could still be growing on the ground or on a tree, roaming in fields or swimming in the sea, ready to enter the food chain in a more sustainable manner, ie when really needed?

We also set out to determine some facts about how much food is wasted at the top end of the UK’s hospitality industry. Research on this was impossible to obtain. How much, painstakingly locally sourced food, is wasted as chefs strive for picture perfect culinary presentation and quality? How much is wasted in experimentation and portion control? We can only speculate, but this problem, we feel, could be addressed by environmental means such as recycling and energy generation.

Within the realms of CSR, instead of feeding the homeless on wastage, could they be employed by trusts and charities established to employ homeless individuals to work in the processing of food? Would that not be a corporate and social responsibility victory? And on a green platform, could the food that is wasted on faulty presentation, perceived sub standard preparation or inefficient ordering have a use? Could this not be returned into the food chain at sub-human levels or even to create organic matter as fertiliser? Would that be an environmental victory?

The point is that some instances of corporate social responsibility strategies are straining parts of our natural resources and food chain. Equally, chefs sourcing local quality produce are wasting a percentage that could have a positive use in some way reinvested into the environment. These points highlight more paradox issues and demonstrate that the commonly bundled CSR and environmental issues should be distinguished and addressed separately.

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