Footprint Blog

To Green or Not to Green…

Posted in Comment,Credit Crunch,Economics,Sustainability by foodservicefootprint on September 2, 2009

Green Scales

Footprint met up last week with Mark Lovett, who handles the sustainability portfolio at public sector frozen food supplier, apetito. The discussion was business attitudes to maintaining sustainable initiatives in an economic downturn. 

Footprint’s view is that although money is tight, organisations need to maintain and develop their environmental strategies because, as night follows day, it is this single most important issue that will drive business decision making over the coming years.

Although the UK is burdened by unprecedented national debt, green shoots are emerging and foodservice businesses need to be in a position to hit the ground running when things really start moving. To be at the front of the queue for new business, companies will need to be able to demonstrate a sound track record in sustainable business activity. Mark agrees.

“Ten years ago, implementing sustainable business measures was a ‘nice to do’”, he says, “something that sometimes provided competitive advantage in a public sector tender, depending on who you were talking to.  However, just a decade later it’s a ‘must’ in order to win and retain business. Every strategic decision a company makes must be considered from a sustainability point of view – and how that impacts on the business, customers and wider stakeholders.

So despite being in a recession, green can’t go out of fashion.  Companies need to continue to invest to stay competitive and to be in a strong position post-recession.”

There will come a point, however, when everyone within the sector is committed to good sustainable practice, so how does a business stand out from the crowd and take competitive advantage, we asked. 

“Critical to success is ensuring that initiatives have clear features and benefits to both the business and its customers and that they do not get lost in general sustainability chatter.   For example, apetito has been working to reduce the amount of cardboard used in the delivery of its meals.  We have reduced our cardboard box requirement by 1m cartons a year, which means saving £95k a year in costs, avoiding perhaps 100 tonnes of carbon emissions in production of that card and through our returnable crate system saving the customer time and effort.  Just this one project demonstrates clear benefits to all parties.

We have also now diverted all of our factory food waste away from landfill with waste now being disposed of by an anaerobic digestion process where the waste generates electricity and creates as a final product a soil improving compost material – another initiative that has clear environmental as well as business benefits. 

Looking after the environment is rightly very much part of the public sector agenda and to avoid it or cost-cut will be to the detriment of any business.”

You have been warned!

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