Footprint Blog


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.

Envirowise Business Thrift Shift report gives insight

Almost three-quarters (73%) of businesses surveyed have developed a more detailed knowledge of their spending and resource use as a result of the recession, according to The Envirowise Business Thrift Shift Report.

This includes everything from investment in raw materials, transport and energy, to staffing, equipment and professional services.

For the hotel and catering industry, reduction of water and energy use was the biggest area of cut back (75%), with a large number also minimising spend on raw materials and consumables. And this ‘thrift shift’ is set to continue when the recovery comes, with 79% of respondents citing a greater emphasis on energy efficiency in particular as a possible legacy of the recession.

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.”

As much as you can eat and more…

Posted in Comment,Credit Crunch,Diet,Food Trends by foodservicefootprint on October 27, 2009
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Of course you can have more boy! And more and more and more...

In the news this week has been the success story of Whitbread’s gluttony restaurant concept, Taybarns.

Over the last 6 months, the ‘as much as you can eat’ chain has shown a 3% increase in sales, in marked contrast to the industry norm, and is now planning to roll out another 30 units.

Customers pay on entry – £5.99 during the day and £7.99 in the evening – and then have the opportunity to gorge themselves from a trough, sorry, food counter, longer than a standard cricket pitch! As Taybarns’ Operations Director Simon Ewins says, “People want to try new things. But if you go out on a Friday night and you try a new main course in a traditional restaurant and you don’t like it, that’s a disaster. At Taybarns you can just try something else or go back to your favourites.”

It is recorded that Taybarns customers eat 3.37 platefuls of food per sitting. One has to wonder how much food waste must result from this.

Well done Whitbread, though, for taking advantage of a market opportunity with immaculate timing. Great marketing – give the punters what they want, when they want it and more, more, more of it!

But doesn’t this once again highlight the contribution of foodservice to the obesity story; one that arguably had its roots in early 1970’s USA, but also one that demonstrates that commercial reality outweighs social conscience when it comes to perpetuating sales.

And how does this square with Corporate Social Responsibility? Whitbread’s ‘Healthier Lifestyles’ policy says ‘Our overall approach – based on extensibve (sic) customer research – is to give our customers a wide range of choices in the food and drink they order and the fitness programmes they follow.’ ..fitness programmes they follow…mmm.

Join the Debate! Footprint Forum: HMS Belfast, October 8th

FOOTPRINT FORUMEarth on a plate LR

On 8th October the Footprint Forum is launched on HMS Belfast, kindly sponsored by sodexo. 

Few business decisions are made today without considering their impact on a sustainable environment. In UK foodservice this is hardly surprising when it is estimated that the industry uses 21.6 million kWh of energy, adds 19 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and creates over 3 million tonnes of food waste, all in the course of a calendar year!

From its inception, the objective of Footprint was to provide the foodservice sector with a single reference point to learn about and debate the environmental issues that were impacting the industry. Today, as we have become more enlightened on this issue, the story is arguably reversed and has become how the industry is impacting the environment and how we can reduce this! Irrespective, we wanted to create a transparency to the issues involved and to enable operators to access the debate using the medium of their choice; in essence, to become the ‘go to’ place for information on this subject.

Foodservice Footprint is still the only industry specific publication dedicated to the subject and with the foodservicefootprint.com blog attracting increasing numbers of visitors, we are now entering the physical interaction arena with the launch of the Footprint Forum.

The objective of the Footprint Forum is to bring together the industry’s key decision makers and opinion formers; those with the power to influence, be it from a corporate, media or political stand point, to initiate cultural change.

Members will hail from all stages of the foodservice supply chain and others, such as those in the food waste conversion arena, whose businesses have a direct relationship with the industry. Footprint Forum is not a conference, it is not a lecture, but a Forum/Symposium, which is entirely interactive and will allow members to air their opinions, uncover the paradoxes and hypocrisies, and be seen within the right environment. We are simply encouraging transparency, debate and cooperation to find the right balance between commercial and environmental realities. We would also like to think that, as Footprint Forum develops, we will be able to generate a consensus that will offer members the chance to play their part in improving the industry and provide a platform for exercising leverage, as a body, on government.

The first meeting takes place on October 8th, aboard the WWII battleship, HMS Belfast, moored on the Thames near London Bridge. This will open with a keynote address by Cyrus Todiwala on Food Waste and its implications. This is a subject particularly relevant to the foodservice industry, as one can see from the statistic above, and one that Cyrus has been highly vocal about for a few years now. When we read that produce farmers, growing for supermarkets, forecast on having to dispose of 30% of their crop for failing one criteria or another, and then hear that 30% of that accepted is then thrown away unsold, we realize the staggering levels of wastage going on.

Cyrus’s address and discussion period will be followed Footprint Panel, a Question Time style Q&A session with a panel of senior industry experts lending their knowledge on a range of environmental issues. The panel is being chaired by Peter Backman of Horizons, who will act as compere, timekeeper and referee, and will offer delegates a first hand, practical insight into the realities of some of the key talking points of the moment.

The first Footprint Forum will finish with a presentation on organic wine by Dan Senior of Corney & Barrow, tantalizingly entitled Green Whites and Reds, which will take us all into the world of organic winemaking and expound on the theories of biodynamics. It will, of course, be necessary to sample some of Dan’s delightful wines during a closer networking session.

The Forum will come together for a General Meeting four times a year at various venues. In addition, we will be forming Special Interest Groups (SIG’s) which will exclusively focus on separate areas such as Equipment, Distribution, Contract Catering, Manufacturing etc, and will be encouraged to meet separately. There will be a summer and Christmas party and a Forum member will have the added advantage of having exclusive access to the full membership, together with research and information made available only to the Footprint Forum membership.

For information about joining Footprint Forum, please contact admin@footprint-forum.com

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!

The Forager: Extraordinarily Brilliant!

In this weeks Eco Hero column, Miles Irving talks about how he grew up foraging for wild food, encouraged by his grandfather. Irving has turned his hobby into a business selling his ‘forage’ to leading restaurants. www.forager.org.uk

Miles said ‘I tried setting up a foraging company a while ago when I had lots of chanterelles to get rid of, but no restaurants were interested. Then about three years later we happened to mention our wild food escapades in a restaurant in Canterbury and got pounced on by the chef’.  He really saw the potential. We now sell to J Sheekey, The Ivy, Scott’s, St John Bread and Wine and Le Caprice, amongst others.

Come on Chef’s, this is so exciting, why not try bittercress, chickweed, a lady’s smock and beefsteak fungus….

I think this is the most exciting thing since Olive Oil became something to cook with, rather than just a remedy for ear-ache! 

Please check out www.forager.org.uk

The carbon offset delusion of Permits to Pollute

www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in

 www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in

In the latest budget Darling committed to Britain not resorting to carbon offsets to meet its emission reduction targets before 2012. Equally ‘Milliband minor’, as I like to call him, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, last week set out plans for UK emission cuts of 34% by 2022 and at least 80% by 2050, to reduce the threat posed by global warming, according to The Times on Wednesday.

However, ‘Britain may go back on its promise not to buy “permits to pollute” from poor nations’ (carbon offset’s are when one country is financially rewarded to make reductions on behalf of another).

The Times professes to have seen a document outlining that Britain’s plan to cut its carbon dioxide emissions, by more than a third by 2022, could be achieved by buying ‘permits to pollute’ from poor countries rather than genuine reductions in domestic emissions.

The Times claimed on Wednesday ‘A draft copy of the government’s energy strategy, due to be published today, reveals that ministers have considered scrapping a commitment made three months ago intended to prevent the UK from buying so-called offset’s from developing nations. It states that genuine cuts would be preferable, carbon off-sets….should be reserved as an insurance option’.

The article further says that Keith Allot, head of climate change at WWF said that ‘carbon offsetting amounted to little more than an accounting trick…We have a chance to transform the UK economy but that can only be achieved by investing in a green recovery package. If we choose offset’s we are just throwing money into a broken mechanism’.

There are some further facts here; ‘the government is committed by law to a phased reduction in carbon emissions over three five-year periods starting in 2008. From 2013 emissions should be further reduced to 28%, below 1990 levels and a third period, from 2018 should see emissions cut to 34% below 1990 levels’. The government however could get a great deal of the legwork done by investing in wind farms in developing countries like India or could pay a country such as Brazil to, buy ‘avoided deforestation credits’.

Doesn’t this rather remind you of the complicated financial models such as banks selling sub-prime debt to each other? Presumably the Carbon Markets and Investors Association (CMIA) meant exactly this when it commented: ‘Carbon offsets are a sensible and economically rational approach for the UK Government. It is critical to have mechanisms that will allow for financial innovation in the environmental space.’

We have seen enough of financial innovation for a while. We all know how this ended. Furthermore, we are not sure that there is any space for banker’s ‘mechanisims’ in environmental issues!

The bottom line is, we have got to reduce carbon emissions, so let’s get on with it! The British government has got to realise that it has to set an example to industry rather than figure manipulation.

Just to put this into the context of foodservice, it is rather like the big multiple hotel, restaurant and catering groups buying carbon offsets from independent operators rather than trying to cut emissions, so that they continue polluting and draining resources at the benefit of their balance sheet, as if climate change and exploiting natural resources wasn’t a very real problem.

There is something very wrong in this and quite frankly, it’s disturbing!

Is Organic Food too posh, asks The Daily Telegraph!

The Daily Telegraph 09/05/09

The Daily Telegraph 09/05/09

I absolutely hate the use of the word posh in any context but this article published in The Daily Telegraph is definitely worth a read. Click on picture.

CSR=Green?

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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