Footprint Blog


Unilever embracing the principles of sustainability?

Posted in Comment,Economics,International by foodservicefootprint on January 31, 2010


Foodservice Footprint recently suggested that business leaders should be aware of the bigger picture and not succumb to ‘path dependency’. We were thus delighted to hear Paul Polman, the chief executive of Unilever, argue along similar lines, by making an impassioned plea at a session in Davos to ignore demands of short-term shareholders and lead from the front on sustainability and climate change.

Mr Polman joined Unilever a year ago and has had an eye on the long-term success of the business and not merely on shareholder value. According to The Times ‘this required him to take costly actions to ensure it had a sustainable business, for example in terms of palm oil supplies’. Mr. Polman commented ‘We want to be in business for the next 500 years’. Has Unilever grasped the principles of sustainability?

Pig Business!

Posted in Comment,News,Provenance,Sustainability,Sustainable Sourcing by foodservicefootprint on January 31, 2010


Marchioness ‘Tracy’ of Worcester invited MP’s at Westminster to see her hard-hitting film Pig Business, which challenges the pork industry and campaigns for pig welfare, with the support of Zac Goldsmith, Tom Parker Bowles and actress Miranda Richardson.

Worcester told the Evening Standard ‘Until there is a mandatory country of origin and welfare label on pork, I believe we must ban the import of animals that are produced to a lower standard’.

Foodservice Footprint awaits eagerly to hear whether Pig Business has a similar impact to The End of The Line and makes a true measurable difference.

Northern Ireland vs. Northern Italy

Posted in Comment,Food Miles,Government,International by foodservicefootprint on January 31, 2010


Whilst locked in emergency talks at the Stormont Assembly, I was surprised to see Gordon Brown, in a natural-resource rich region like Northern Ireland help himself to an Italian water brand in a cabinet office.

Another ‘Dodgy Dossier’?

Posted in Comment by foodservicefootprint on January 24, 2010

With the Sunday papers full of the news that the IPCC has begrudgingly withdrawn another of its wilder claims – that of the disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 -the rumble of climate change ‘deniers’ grows louder by the minute.

The story here is that the 2035 claim was made originally in a paper by a Dr.Syed Hasnain who works for The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) of which IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri happens to be Director General. It now turns out, according to Dr Murari Lal, the co-ordinating lead author on the asian section of the IPCC 2007 report, that the authors were aware the statement was unsound, but kept it in because ‘We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action’.

Does anyone see a parallel with the 45 minutes scenario currently under discussion in the Iraq enquiry?

That aside, this is yet another own goal by the IPCC following the manipulated data scenario in the autumn. What is worrying is that the more these stories emerge, the more they will enflame public cynicism towards the whole environmental issue and that, in many minds, includes the very real issues of sustainability facing the world at large and the food industry in particular.

Oh to be a forecaster…

Posted in Comment by foodservicefootprint on January 24, 2010

When I was young our summer seaside holiday was spent on the east Northumbrian coast. The weather was generally iffy to say the least and our method of forecasting was to hang seaweed outside the door which was remarkably accurate.

Today our weather forecasts are the result of rather more sophisticated, highly intricate and extremely expensive computer models, so we should perhaps expect even higher levels of accuracy.  

Not so.  ‘Barbeque summer’, the Met Office said, winter ‘milder and wetter than average’. Poor chaps – they just can’t get it right can they. Where do they get their data from? Surprise surprise … the same computer models as are used to predict climate change … the one’s recently discredited as being manipulated to suit certain vested interest. Funny that…

Initial thoughts on Food 2030

Posted in Comment by foodservicefootprint on January 5, 2010

A couple of points that need to be addressed regarding DEFRA’s campaign Food 2030 announced today:

One of the aims is to reduce greenhouse gas in the food chain and another is to cut food waste and use technologies that allow us to create energy from the waste we can’t avoid.

As far as I am aware most of the bigger businesses in foodservice have taken gigantic leaps in this direction already, with very little or no help from the current government. To that extent the smaller foodservice businesses cannot afford to do so. So I wonder what the government is proposing to assist smaller businesses?

Furthermore, Hilary Benn is still banging the 5 A Day drum, although it is common knowledge that if the entire population were to actually follow this directive, the environmental impact would be disastrous.

Another wonderful example of how long term money saving and sustainability go hand in hand!

Posted in Comment,Credit Crunch,Economics,Foodservice Footprint news,Government,News,Sustainability by foodservicefootprint on December 15, 2009

According to Defra’s ‘Saving money – it’s your business’ campaign businesses are wasting £6.4Bn a year by missing simple money-saving opportunities.

Defra is highlighting the need for the catering and hospitality industry to cut down on waste, energy and water use to realise the financial benefits.

The campaign shows how simple environmental actions translate into money savings and is supplemented with practical advice on how to integrate resource efficient practices into daily operations.

For more information www.businesslink.gov.uk/savingmoney

Gosh, with such well thought out and helpful campaigns, how could Foodservice Footprint possibly argue that the Labour government isn’t doing enough for the catering and hospitality industry.

Copenhagen Climate Change Summit & Foodservice

Posted in Comment,Economics,Foodservice Footprint news,Government,International,News by foodservicefootprint on November 26, 2009

The Copenhagen Climate Change Summit is one of the elixir’s of sustainability and we have been trying to find an easy way to relate it to foodservice.

The meeting is the deadline to negotiate the successor to the Kyoto protocol, with the aim of preventing global warming. The biggest and most developed nations emit by far the most carbon thus have a responsibility to cut these significantly. Although emerging markets such as India and China are surging ahead in their emissions; per person emissions are relatively small (by way of example 400 million Indians live without electricity). The argument of these emerging markets is that pollution will be necessary to improve citizens lives. Nevertheless, cuts of 25%-40% rising to further cuts of 80%-95% by 2050 will be the focus of the Summit.

So, the richest nations are going to have to pay and this is exactly where foodservice comes into play. Gordon Brown and other EU leaders are suggesting figures in the realms of $100 billion by 2020.

But who’s going to pay this domestically? One would think those that utilise the Earth’s natural resources the most! Companies operating in the foodservice industry are significant stakeholders of natural resources and therefore will feel the impact of Copenhagen Climate Change Summit over the coming years. Whether by means of taxation or sanctions remains to be seen.

So, those still doubting the significance of climate change should brace themselves!

Sustainability dominates the Press Association Media Awards!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martin Hickman, The Independent’s Consumer Affairs Correspondent has been named Journalist Of The Year at the Foreign Press Associations Media Awards.

His report on the environmental effects of palm oil beat news reports from the BBC, Channel 4, Wall Street Journal and even the Daily Telegraph’s coverage of the MP’s expense scandal.

The report revealed palm oil is destroying the rainforest and is threatening the survival of the orang-utan, yet is still found in best-selling food brands.

The report prompted Nestle, Marks & Spencer, Cadbury and Mars into moving to sustainable supply.

First ‘Foodservice’ Footprint Forum on sustainability calls on Government to do more!

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Footprint Forum 8th of October 2009

The inaugural Footprint Forum, sponsored by Sodexo on HMS Belfast in London, brought together the great and the good of the foodservice industry to discuss the burning issue of the day – how to achieve sustainability throughout the industry.

A panel of industry experts debated a wide range of concerns including waste, procurement, the confusion in some areas between organic and sustainable, fishing, equipment and energy, transport and incentives offered by the Carbon Trust to buy new greener kit.

Introducing the Forum, Footprint Media Group CEO Nick Fenwicke-Clennell said “the objective of Footprint Forum is to create an environment where the decision makers and influencers of this industry can come together to debate the issues, exchange ideas and benefit from the knowledge of others as we drive towards a more sustainable future for foodservice.”

The keynote address by chef Cyrus Todiwala MBE, concentrated on the huge problem of waste produced by the hospitality industry and how best to combat it. Todiwala’s multiple award winning restaurant, Café Spice Namasté is a showcase for sustainable practice. He is a highly vocal environmental campaigner and chairs the Waste Committee for London.

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Cyrus Todiwala speaking at Footprint Forum HMS Belfast 8th October 2009

Todiwala’s controversial take on the problem of waste is that collectors should pay operators to take it away, as happens in India. This would, said Cyrus, encourage people to segregate and conserve for recycling and save operators a fortune into the bargain. “In India newspapers, empty bottles, used clothes, pots and pans, old wood, scrap iron/steel, wood, aluminium, cardboard and cartons are all paid for by the waste collectors. People are very careful about how they store their valuable rubbish – scrap buyers come to your doorstep asking for rubbish to buy or exchange for new goods. I firmly believe that if India were a thousand miles closer to the UK I would become a millionaire just selling scrap from the UK,” he said. “The system we use in the UK is ridiculous and is the reason why there is no incentive for people to dispose of their useful rubbish effectively.

Restaurants and hotels pay hefty amounts to have their rubbish cleared away. Those of us who are environmentally conscious end up paying much, much more, thereby eliminating any incentive. The collectors, however, make massive profits since they sell on our rubbish by the tonnage and charge us for collecting it as well. “Waste disposal operators contracted by councils and other authorities should be made competitive. They should be made to collect free – if not actually to buy the rubbish. That way everyone would make sure they put their rubbish out as carefully as they can and not mix and pile it randomly. “Foodservice has to lead the way. Ideally, in five years time, if we all act collectively we will get manufacturers, producers and collectors all listening and doing exactly what we wish them to do which is to help us to create a zero waste community of end users,” said Todiwala.

He also went on to deplore the ‘unjoined up thinking’ afflicting many schemes designed to push sustainability. “There is a failure to communicate between initiatives and this leads to duplication of effort. There are several streams of Government funding going into several projects, the problem is no one knows about the various initiatives and often the organisations involved within those initiatives themselves don’t know what is going on and end up duplicating work someone else is doing.”

As Todiwala finished to applause from the delegates, the panel of experts chaired by Peter Backman of Horizons assembled to take questions from the audience. An expert on the structure and dynamics of the foodservice sector, and its supply chain in the UK and across Europe, Backman regularly speaks at conferences in North America and Europe.

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Footprint Forum Panel HMS Belfast 8th of October 2009

Responding to questions from the floor the general consensus of opinion from the panel was that although a lot has been done and improvement is ongoing it is just scratching the surface, not just on the problem of waste but also addressing other sustainable issue such as fishing, incentives for procurement both of energy efficient equipment and food and drink. The panel also echoed Todiwala’s concerns that there is no ‘joined up thinking’ from Government and there is a need for more incentives for operators to buy into sustainability.

Glenn Roberts of refrigeration giant Gram said: “The problem we see at Gram is that although the Government, in the form of the Carbon Trust, is doing good work promoting sustainability in the media it needs to understand ‘Catering plc’ better. The Carbon Trust’s Energy Technology List (ETL) lists 18,000 products in all that are eligible for Government tax breaks because they are ‘green’. In catering, only refrigeration figures on the list. Bearing in mind that refrigeration accounts for a mere 6 per cent of energy consumption in kitchens this is not enough, more equipment needs to be on the list. But first we need to know how energy is used in commercial kitchens. There needs to be a benchmark for prime cooking and other equipment. The catering Equipment Manufacturers Association (CESA) is currently lobbying the Carbon Trust and it is clear the Trust doesn’t understand the foodservice sector. As for manufacturers, we must listen to the market place. It is vital that we do this. Sustainable products are more expensive and very difficult to sell in the current climate.” Gram performed a survey of the industry two years ago and is now conducting another one to show the amount of change since then. The Gram Green Paper offers insight and statistical information on a range of areas such as operators’ interpretation of what green means to their business, as well as demonstrating personal green initiatives currently in place. It also highlights perceptions on cost/saving implications as well as which sectors could be doing more to ensure foodservice is an environmentally responsible industry. “The findings showed people are desperate to do something decisive. The market place can be bothered: they just want to be show how,” he said. “However, we have found there is a gap between what people say they want and what they do. The driving force is for the procurement department to save money. Joined up thinking doesn’t happen. If it costs £1400 to replace a refrigerator with an energy efficient version, they will go for the £900 option even though it uses 5-6 times more energy and will struggle to maintain temperature. It is very hard to get people to take that on board. After all, they may well be thinking that they may not be in business next year so why pay the extra?” he said. Thomas Jelly of Sodexo suggested that large companies that commit to sustainability should be ranked in a league table. He said that incentives in the form of tax reductions would get finance departments thinking hard and would get them behind the initiative.

Ian Booth, Technical Director of fresh food supplier Reynolds said: “In the public sector local government should set objectives such as the percentage of sustainability in procurement to be achieved whether it be in equipment, food – everything. The Government must do this to make it work. It will be interesting to see where that will go. Europe is telling Government to look at procurement.”

Mike Berthet, Director of Fish & Seafood, M&J Seafoods said: “It is disappointing that the Government has not set the pace. I raised this question with Hilary Benn recently at an open forum. The Government just hasn’t taken the lead. There should be two fish dishes on school menus per week and the fish should be from a sustainable source.” He had some good news to impart, however, telling delegates of positive initiatives taken by the fishing industry. One example he cited was that of seven boats out of Scotland now have video cameras rigged to the trawl so they can see what fish is being discarded. “One guy has a camera on the underwater trawl bar – if he sees they are about to catch cod when they are over quota they can simply reel in and start again. This is also invaluable, say, if they start fishing in an area with too many juvenile cod. They can pack up and move to another area. The area with the juvenile cod can then be closed to fishing for a month to allow stocks to grow.” Berthet also told delegates that we have the raw materials for producing fish feed for sustainable aqua culture literally on our doorsteps. “Ragworm can be farmed from any old detritus. There are billions of tonnes of that in London alone of that in London alone,” he said.

Ian Booth made the valuable point that there is confusion about ‘organic’ and ‘sustainable’ products with some people thinking they are the same thing: a comment that was greeted with agreement from the panel and the delegates.

Thomas Jelley said: “Sustainability is not about one product being local or one recyclable. We have to take in other individual components such as transport and put it all together seamlessly.”

Heidi Easby of Brakes warned that working out a long term strategy takes time and industry employees have their part to play, saying that it sometimes pays to start from basics. “To really try to change the ethos of people in business it is important not to just concentrate on mileage. It is possible to have day to day impact. At Brakes we have no bins at desks so staff have to walk to recycle points to chuck stuff away. This has reduced waste by 40 per cent. Big schemes may require financing but small things like this work well.”

“Smaller things persuade the industry to take responsibility. Why not ask staff what they want to do?” responded Jelley.

“What we do in the crunch to offset against a lower income will work in better times. This is a good time to make changes and when things get better everybody is used to it,” said Todiwala.

“Ultimately, the Government must set out standards to look at the bigger picture. Sustainability is ultimately win-win for everybody,” concluded Ian Booth, who seemed to echo the thoughts of most people at the event.

Charles Miers, Managing Director of Footprint Media Group reflected: “It is desperately sad that the industry, friend or foe, haven’t cooperated more. Seeing all these influencers under one roof, nevermind talking to each other is unheard of – we changed that today! Let’s hope that this might set the precedence going forward.”

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