Tuesday, 2nd January, 2018

Making Your Business Greener

"Recycle, Reuse, Reduce" From the proper management of waste products, to utilising technology to conserve and save energy - as well as making greener purchasing decisions - the food service industry is working hard to reduce the carbon footprint it, like most industries, inevitably leaves behind. At the same rate of consumers demand, more and more businesses are looking at the product they produce, the packaging they use - and how they dispose of it - in a bid to manage their impact on the environment.

Large companies have been leading the way, McDonalds for example use packaging from sustainable sources that have been certified by either the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).  They also ensure their entire fleet of trucks runs on Biodiesel - 40% of which comes from their used cooking oil - which is converted into Biodiesel that runs on the energy generated by their kitchen food waste, like coffee grounds.

McDonalds say; “We use our scale to maximise our positive environmental impact. We employ 91,500 people in the UK, so if each of them works in a more energy-efficient way we have the opportunity to make a big difference.

“Our people are keen to do their bit for the environment, so we’ve trained our crew members in ways to save energy, for example putting equipment such as grills and toasters into the standby position when not in use.

“And it’s working. Across all of our restaurants, the small changes that our employees have made are paying off. In addition we’ve installed lots of energy saving technologies in our restaurants to help make things run even more efficiently.”

Carbon Neutral

In another example of the industry working to improve sustainability, fast casual Mexican chain Wahaca became the first restaurant group in the UK to voluntarily sign up to the Waste and Resources Action Programme’s ‘Hospitality and Food Service Agreement’– an agreement whereby signatories provide the government with their waste volumes, with the aim of reducing this wherever possible and helping others to do the same.  They were also the first restaurant group in the UK to become Carbon Neutral – Wahaca have in the meantime continued to push the boundaries and run their restaurants responsibly. 

The group, which currently has 26 locations, has reduced the average total energy consumption of newer sites (those established after 2013) by 36%. Further to this, they have regularly assessed the efficiency of older locations, and by upgrading systems and appliances have decreased the average energy consumption of older sites by 15%. For example, adjusting a heater battery at the Bluewater Wahaca led to a 76% reduction in gas use. In 2016, through offsetting the remaining unavoidable energy usage by investing in far-reaching energy-saving initiatives, Wahaca has been certified as having a net zero carbon footprint.

In 2016 their Edinburgh outlet was also given the highest possible rating from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the SKA Gold - a rating based on the environmental impact of the restaurant, assessing energy consumption, CO2 emissions, waste, water and materials used.  Wahaca say: “SKA ratings help our designers and contractors assess fit-out projects against a set of sustainability good practice criteria, whilst working in conjunction with our zero-waste to landfill policy and the Green Wahaca charter ensuring Wahaca is as sustainable and energy efficient as it can be, and you can tuck into your tacos, safe in the knowledge, that they’re not costing the earth.

“It’s not just about building nice green restaurants though. We are proud to have been the first restaurant group to (do so).”

Meanwhile in a bid to conserve and save Costa Coffee launched their first environmentally-friendly building design in 2015, the eco-pod, which utilised innovative energy saving technology and became the first ‘zero energy’ coffee shop building in the UK.  Located in Telford ‘Zero energy’ is achieved through passive ventilation and innovative construction techniques which mean that the energy required to heat and cool the building is minimised, the low amount of energy that is required for building temperature control comes from solar PV cells embedded in the specially curved roof - balancing out overall.

This was the first time in the UK that a ‘zero energy’ cafe/restaurant building had been built and opened commercially and saw them win an Environmental Leadership award at the Responsible Business Awards 2016.  The brand has now opened a second - and has recently been awarded the title of ‘Most Ethical Brand’ in Europe at the annual Allegra Coffee Symposium 2017. 

Simply Cup

There are many examples of QSRs and food-to-go outlets – as well as manufacturers and initiatives - who are actively encouraging their customers to recycle and reuse the most basic of sustainability requirements - but one that seems to be making a big difference.  And the issue of takeaway cups in foodservice seems to be making the most noise.  To tackle this the Simply Cup scheme was established back in 2014, a scheme that set out to recycle the mammoth 5 million paper cups used in the UK every year. 

Seeing the importance of working across the supply chain, the partnership between Simply Cups and Leafield Environmental - manufacturers of plastic litter and recycling bins - brought huge media and consumer interest, and since their collaboration Leafield have seen a dramatic rise in interest for their cup bins (sales are up 35%).  It has also led to the creation of a larger bin the ‘Envirocup XL’ which also has a compartment for liquids making it even easier to dispose of cups responsibly.

Additionally in April 2016 ‘The Square Mile Challenge’ was initiated, whereby a ‘square mile’ of London was challenged to collect and recycle half a million cups in April 2016, and they achieved it with 509,091 coffee cups collected – all of which are to be recycled into something new. 

Peter Goodwin, Director of Closed Loop Environmental Solutions who work alongside Simply Cups, told QuickBite in August of last year: “The industry needs to be responsible for driving the solutions.  There is the danger of a knee jerk reaction driven by the media, for example sudden bans on materials. 

“Ultimately we must understand all materials and come up with a solution.  Banning things or putting taxes on things may seem like a quick fix and the right thing to do at the time, but it might not be any better than what we have currently got.”


Similarly in a bid to tackle the waste issue brought on by paper cups, Costa Coffee launched a scheme that gives their customers a 25p discount off all of their drinks and in the spirit of all good recycling schemes, the cup can be from any outlet - even a rivals.  Costa also established the Paper Cup Manifesto with the objective ensure the majority of the UK population have access to information, schemes and facilities to allow them to recycle their takeaway paper cup.  And by pledging to work alongside the supply chain the coffee giant works to ensure their cups are designed, used, disposed of and collected to maximise rates of recycling in the UK.

It is clear that he takeaway industry has taken a ‘front-line’ stance to the issue of waste and recycling as it is very often takeaways and QSRs who are ultimately blamed for the litter present on high streets up and down the country.  However is this fair? The Food Packaging Association (FPA) doesn’t think so and actively campaigns to find solutions by working alongside the food service and packaging industry to reduce litter and waste. They say that litter ‘is increasingly given by EU and national governments as the reason for legislative actions impacting on packaging.’  The FPA work to ensure that foodservice operators and packaging providers are not given the sole blame for food and litter issues - encouraging a change in behaviour towards littering. 

The FPA slammed the government’s plans to introduce a packaging tax to attempt to alleviate the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans.  However the FPA say that this equates to a ‘fish and chip tax’, a decision that could damage the takeaway industry - which brings in thousands to the UK economy every year.  Martin Kershe, head of the FPA said; “It’s important that the public understands that taxes will do nothing to deliver a long term solution to on-the-go waste.
“Indeed at variance with the carrier bag charge where net proceeds are given to charities, we believe a tax on single use plastics will simply disappear as extra revenue to a cash strapped Government and won’t provide much needed funding for the UK’s recycling infrastructure.”

Pioneering bottled water

With the issue of plastic waste in our oceans making headlines, inevitably operators and manufacturers have been working hard to reduce its impact and as part of their ongoing evolution, Wenlock Spring is imminently including British recycled plastic (rPET)  in the manufacturing of their plastic (PET) bottles. Initially starting with 25% rPET in their current bottles,  50% will be introduced in Q1 2018. This is a major step forward for the environmentally friendly water bottler. The pioneering bottled water brand are establishing themselves among industry leaders, who have targets of 40% rPET by 2020.

Matthew Orme, Director of Wenlock Spring explains: “For the second generation independent family business, achieving 50% rPET is an impressive feat. Currently, the UK has a limited supply of rPET - we are simply not recycling enough. 

“Change is coming through a number of high profile campaigns. The 2020 Plastics Challenge, the potential Deposit Return Scheme,  BBC’s Blue Planet and the EU’s ‘Our Ocean Summit’ have brought the issue higher up the political, economic and social agenda. Speaking live at the summit, HRH Prince of Wales, urged industry to ‘recover, recycle, reuse instead of create, use and then throw away.”

Wenlock Spring believes that we all have a duty and responsibility for future generations to make changes now, they already recycle 99% of materials that the business uses on site. This next step is a significant investment for the brand but one that supports their sustainable approach.


• Holly Bowman, co-owner of North Star Coffee Roasters
• Mark Brigden, Technical Director, Biopac (UK) Ltd
• David Davies, Managing Director, Checkit
• Karen Cripps, Business Development Manager, EcoPure Waters
• Becci Eplett, Marketing Manager, Huhtamaki UK Ltd
• George Clark, Senior Commercial Manager, MSC UK
• Paul Siouville, Buffalo Brand Manager, Nisbets Plc
• Matthew Orme, Director of Wenlock Spring
• Adrian Greaves, Foodservice Director, Young’s Foodservice
• Andrew Stephen, CEO, Sustainable Restaurant Association
• Pippa Henderson Marketing and Communications Executive, Bio-Bean
• Hilary Khawam, Communications and Marketing Director, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)

How important is sustainability in the food-to-go/quick service restaurant industry?

According to the Sustainable Restaurant Association a not-for-profit membership org that helps foodservice make smart, sustainable decisions through ‘Food Made Good’ with more choice, greater competition and an increasingly savvy consumer, sustainability is as high up the agenda as it has ever been for the food to go quick service industry.

“A number of key issues vie for prominence on the news agenda: from food waste to plant-based eating, single use plastics to healthy children’s menus. And operators can capitalise by providing a progressive offering,” explains Andrew Stephen, CEO. 

“The frontrunners are already cashing in, taking decisive action and communicating it smartly to their customers. Just look at how businesses like Pret have adapted. Their initial Veggie Pret in London’s Soho was seen as a risk when it launched in spring 2016. Now the third permanent veggie site is open and there is every chance there will be more, such is the demand.

Andrew believes that for too long too many businesses have been content to wait for others to take the lead or for the Government to legislate before they’ll take action. He says: “We sense that is starting to change, but there are still an awful lot of businesses that need to wake up and smell the coffee – recognising that they have a responsibility to lead as well as to feed.”

Indeed sustainable operation is increasingly important to any food business. Faced with rising energy costs, pressure from consumers and legislation to reduce the environmental impact of business operations, companies must take steps to go green or potentially risk losing customers to competitors believes David Davies, Managing Director, Checkit the Smart, wireless food safety monitoring system.

“Improving sustainability can also enable businesses to reduce costs for example by reducing food waste and energy consumption,” says David. “These are important benefits at a time when food businesses are experiencing increasing cost inflation.”

Young’s Foodservice say it has ‘become easier than ever’ to become greener, with customers at the source of the industry wide change.  Adrian Greaves, Foodservice Director at Young’s Foodservice explains: “In recent years, environmental issues have really taken the spotlight in the foodservice industry because customers have become more aware of issues affecting the environment.

“Operators need to ensure they are doing everything they can to make their business greener and with new innovation within technology, and manufacturers making a conscious effort to produce products in a more sustainable way, it has become easier than ever for all foodservice businesses to become greener.”

MSC Certified

The Marine Stewardship Council works with partners to encourage sustainable fishing practices, and any accredited restaurant or takeaway holds the blue MSC label – ensuring their customers that they sell sustainable fish and seafood.  Wahaca, heralded for its savvy environmental practises hold the certification as do Kingfisher Fish & Chips, officially the best Independent Fish and Chip shop in the UK, as awarded by the National Fish and Chip Awards. 

“It’s hugely important: fish and seafood are a big part of the food-to-go and QSR offering and, as consumer demand for sustainable food increases, it’s becoming essential that companies offer sustainable seafood options,” explains George Clark. 

“According to MSC research, 61% of consumers believe that restaurants should offer sustainable seafood on their menus. McDonald’s were the first QSR to recognise the importance of MSC certification and the value it can bring to a brand.”

In fact now every Filet-o-Fish and fish finger sold by McDonald’s in the UK is guaranteed to be made of sustainably caught fish.

Eco-Friendly packaging

Packaging manufacturer Biopac manufactures and supplies eco-friendly food packaging and catering products.  Their business has long been inspired by the impact packaging has on the environment – and the small changes each one of us can make which will have significant consequences for the world around us.

Mark Brigden, Technical Director at Biopac explains: “Where QSRs are concerned in particular, the statistics surrounding waste and sustainability used to be shocking – thanks to the nature of the industry and little focus on eco-friendliness.

“Things are improving – but there’s still some way to go for the industry as a whole.”

Additionally according to Biopac multiple studies have shown that consumers actively choose to engage with companies that demonstrate consideration for the environment – and would consider switching from a brand that doesn’t.

Similarly global food and drink packaging specialists Huhtamaki have continued to drive innovation in product design - in direct response to environmental requirements.  Becci Eplett, Marketing Manager, Huhtamaki UK Ltd says: “Food packaging exists for the fundamental purpose of safely preserving the condition of the product that is contains.

“As we all become more aware of the scarcity of natural resources, whether that be energy, water or food, all manufacturers will need to work to reduce the environmental impact of their operations and their products through their entire lifecycle and packaging plays a vital part in that equation. Packaging which is manufactured responsibly, that is innovative and functionally efficient and that can be disposed of with minimal environmental impact has a very bright future.”

What factors do foodservice operators need to consider in order to make their businesses greener?

According to the Food and Drink Federation (FDIN) they believe that in 2018, we’ll see more resourceful ways to reduce food waste, which will prevent food producers from throwing away food originally classed as rubbish during production. As a result, next year consumers will likely see the whole ingredient being used, rather than just the “good parts”. Additionally, more restaurants and eateries will pop-up cooking with food that is nearing the end of its shelf life. 

According to Andrew Stephen there’s a common perception that going green can take you into the red. Many of the key steps that would help a business to be greener can actually boost the bottom line. He explains; “When you realise that 70% of the carbon footprint of a foodservice business is attributable to the food it uses and that food waste costs the average business at least £10,000 a year, it’s possible to see the connection between saving the planet and saving pounds.

“In fact, research shows that for every £1 invested in a food waste strategy, a business will save £14. Now that’s some return on investment. It also flags another crucial point: planning. Like most elements of the business, it pays to plan and look long term when it comes to sustainability.”

There are some investments that will involve an initial outlay, like some energy efficient kitchen equipment for example. “The rewards will come and keep coming though, just as an operator like Wahaca has discovered with its investment in heat capture technology to provide its hot water,” adds Andrew.  “Equally, by investing up front in your employees, treating them fairly in terms of pay and conditions, as businesses like Leon have demonstrated, staff turnover is reduced. Thinking beyond tomorrow’s menu can save time, money and resources.”

Improving temperature monitoring is an easy way to reduce energy consumption and improve sustainability immediately and in the long term adds David Davies.  He explains: “Many businesses are unaware that they are over-consuming energy because fridges and freezers are running at a lower temperature than is necessary for safe operation. 

“Automated monitoring solutions, such as Checkit, give businesses better control over the energy usage of critical equipment. If the temperature falls outside pre-approved parameters, for example if the freezer door has been left open, managers will be instantly alerted and can correct the issue before valuable stock is damaged and wasted.”

One of the key factors is packaging. Not only the type of packaging used but also the amount of packaging used whilst helping to reduce your carbon footprint it can also reduce the impact your business has on the environment. “This is particularly important in the food-to-go sector where so much disposable packaging is used,” says Mark Brigden.  “This sector will continue to grow and it’s therefore more important than even to start thinking differently. The environment needs to be considered at each stage of the supply chain.

What simple changes can foodservice Business make to improve their green credentials?

Coffee roastery North Star Coffee recently launched their NEW ‘Spotlight’ range, which features some of the best-quality coffee, whilst also highlighting one of the most important issues that the coffee industry faces today; the waste generated from disposable cups that are non-biodegradable.

The innovative packaging for the NEW ‘Spotlight’ range, consists of a sleeve and box which are made using 50% recycled coffee cup fibre, meaning that they are 100% recyclable and biodegradable. To achieve this, North Star worked closely with James Cropper; a family-run business in the Lake District who invested £5 million into a new recycling facility which uses ground-breaking machinery to effectively recycle paper cups into paper.

In fact, they are just one of two facilities in the UK which are now geared up to recycle coffee cups. The beautiful new packaging and new coffee range will be available at the new coffee shop and general store. 

Holly Bowman, co-founder explains: “When it comes to coffee, this is an incredibly important principle to be aware of due to the extreme volatility of coffee producing environments – not only are coffee producers located in some of the most environmentally unstable areas in the world, they are also massively impacted by a changing climate with rising temperatures affecting the harvest season and both the quality and yield of the coffee. 

“If we are not an environmentally responsible business, we are not playing a role in safeguarding millions of livelihoods across the world but more importantly, coffee will cease to exist before long and if we want to guarantee the supply of the same high quality beans year on year, we have no choice but to integrate environmental sustainability into our business plan.”

Coffee waste recycling

“Sustainability is rising on the public agenda. ‘Making your business greener’ is of particular relevance to the food service industry due to increased awareness and concern around issues such as food waste, ethically sourced products, the use of pesticides versus organic produce and so on,” says Pippa Henderson of Bio-Bean who recycle waste coffee grounds into advanced biofuels - like ‘wonderfuel’ Coffee Logs.

“Businesses that produce volumes of waste coffee grounds as part of their processes can consider recycling coffee with bio-bean. The UK produces half a million tonnes of coffee waste every year and most of it goes to landfill, where it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas,” adds Pippa. 

“Instead it can be collected with one of our waste management partners, and sent to our world-first coffee recycling factory in Cambridgeshire. Here, we recycle waste coffee grounds into advanced biofuels like Coffee Logs – the eco briquettes for stoves, woodburners and open fires. Our coffee recycling service is available throughout the UK and can save participating businesses money.” 
From sea to plate

At Young’s Foodservice, one of their main priorities is to protect the environment. With this in mind, they have developed a specific programme to safeguard the key elements of our business; the fish and the sea. Through our Fish for Life Corporate Social Responsibility Programme, we aim to improve the impact of everything we do, from sea to plate.

“This includes doing all we can for our customers and for the planet,” says Adrian Greaves.  “Sustainable practices are the only way to protect the future of fish and this is why we work hard to ensure we understand every fish farm and fishery before using them in our supply chain.

“We also work proactively with fishermen and the industry as a whole to help improve long term sustainability. Therefore foodservice operators can be reassured that fish purchased from Young’s Seafood has been sourced responsibly and sustainably which allows them to confidently relay this information to their customers.”

Young’s are confident that the future for sustainable seafood is brighter than ever and want to continue raising awareness to help businesses understand the positive impact they can make by choosing sustainable manufacturers, not only on the environment but with their customers too.

“Fish and seafood is a popular choice with many diners, therefore it is sensible for caterers to offer a good range on their menus and highlight the sustainable sourcing,” adds Adrian.  “Foodservice operators should carefully consider the types of fish they offer and most importantly, with sustainability being such a hot topic, be aware of the provenance of where the fish is sourced. 

“We would highly advise caterers to check the sourcing policy as a first point of action when choosing a supplier to ensure they have a responsible policy in place.”

PEFC Certified

“One of the easiest changes a business can make to improve their green credentials is to use certification labels on consumer-facing packaging,” says Hilary Khawam, of PEFC a non-profit organisation which promotes sustainable forest management. 

“A 2017 YouGov survey, 53% of respondents said that they looked for wood-based products carrying a forest certification label. 2 out of 3 respondents believe that certification labels such as PEFC’s are important in promoting sustainable forest management,” explains Hilary.  “68% of respondents said they’d think better of a company if it demonstrated responsible sourcing practices through the following certification labels such as PEFC’s.

If companies want to show their customers that their packaging is responsibly-sourced there are a few steps they can take:

• Develop and implement a paperboard packaging procurement policy which includes PEFC-certified products
• Ask suppliers if they have PEFC Chain of Custody certification and are able to supply you with certified materials
• Use the PEFC label on your certified packaging to communicate and demonstrate your business’ commitment to a more sustainable world.

Sustainability and environmental best practice are key elements of Corporate Social Responsibility in any consumer-facing industry. Unsurprisingly then it is becoming increasingly an integral part of the way responsible manufacturing companies supplying this sector do business. 

Suppliers such as Colpac, known for their sandwich and food to go packaging, ensure that their packaging features strong green credentials.  “Consumer perception is very important to the companies we supply” said Colpac’s Clare Lloyd. “It’s therefore paramount that we are able to demonstrate out company’s commitment to sustainable sourcing. The PEFC label can serve as an excellent stamp of approval, giving customers’ confidence in a product’s environmental credentials.”

What does the future hold for the industry in terms of sustainability and green legislation?

Food waste, sugar and plastic are just three of the areas that could be the subject of green legislation to affect the sector in the foreseeable future.
“In Scotland and Wales businesses have to separate and recycle their food waste,” says Andrew Stephen.  “A number of continental European countries have adopted a similar approach.

“Parliament could well follow suit and introduce that regime in England. We would urge businesses not to wait for the Government to act, but to make the change now, benefitting from cheaper waste disposal in the process.”

About 80% of SRA members already do this and the vast majority of them measure and monitor their food waste. This provides them with the data they need to implement changes to prevent waste and save money.

“The sugar tax is due to take effect in 2018. Many producers have already reformulated while operators, including, Jamie’s Italian have pre-empted the move by either introducing their own levy, removing sugary soft drinks from their children’s offering or ditching the bottomless drinks option,” adds Andrew. 

The Chancellor, Philip Hammond announced in his November budget a consultation on the potential for charging or taxing single use plastics – following the success of the 5p carrier bag charge. Again, forward thinking operators have already made a move. “A number of pub, bar and restaurant operators including JD Wetherspoon and Oakman Inns have stopped automatically serving straws with their drinks, instead providing compostable or biodegradable ones on request,” explains Andrew.

“These are all excellent examples of businesses seeing the future and realising that it is green.”