Hospitality businesses need to spend time and money tackling the issue of sustainability now, or face being clobbered by massive bills in the future.
That was the stark warning delivered to delegates at last week's Association of Catering Excellence conference on sustainability, held in London's Canary Wharf.
Throughout the day experts, caterers and chefs gave their opinions and tips on tackling the increasingly important issue of sustainability and, in its wider context, corporate social responsibility.
Although there were differing views among the speakers about how much sustainability would affect catering, they all agreed the current climate of heightened environmental awareness among the public was not a passing fad.
"Sustainability is now a national epidemic with no cure," said Geoff Ward, director at environmental health consultancy HMS.
"You can knock it but it's not going away."
Shabaz Mohammed, managing director of the Pelican Buying Group, said the issue of sustainable practices would gather pace as countries tackled carbon in the environment. "If you're not at the forefront you might lose out," he said. "There's a definite commercial advantage in taking a lead on this."
A panel discussion reinforced this view, and reminded delegates that today's children - tomorrow's customers - were fully on board with the green message and would demand the same commitment from operators.
Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines, food and beverage director at hotel chain Abode, said the company had taken steps to reduce energy use after bills soared 40% in a year. These included fitting light sensors in its hotels' corridors, using technology to reduce water use in showers and adopting the use of microfibre cloths for cleaning to reduce the amount of chemicals used.
"The biggest challenge is getting things going," said Caines. "You need a mix of quick actions and longer-term solutions, which could be anything from better water management through to putting in a much more environmentally friendly kitchen when it comes around to replacement time."
Tips for caterers keen to sustain
- Save money/save the planet.
- Develop a simple plan and review progress as you go along.
- Conduct an energy audit so you know your start point.
- Set targets.
- Get staff involved and motivated.
- Start recycling.
- Communicate successes to your team.
- Prioritise and budget for energy-saving measures.
- Spend money on energy-efficient kit.
- Improve energy use upon refurbishment.
By Chris Druce
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