Good Sense Research presented recently at September’s Speciality Fine Food Fair on ‘driving sustainability & ESG in food & drink’ the research telling us that whilst the ongoing Cost of Living Crisis (COLC) has re-focussed consumer minds somewhat in the short-term, they continue to be consciously aware regarding sustainability issues. Long-term, for all matters Sustainable & ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) the trajectory remains on a positive & ongoing, upward direction.
Sustainability, no longer the buzzword to be given lip service only to, a corporate social responsibility glossy brochure: it is time for businesses to think seriously about integrating these goals into the DNA of company strategy. Without continuing to strive to do better, be better, then feeding our population may well, one day, literally cost us the earth. A single word to encapsulate a movement that has become so vast it has become near impossible to convey its full meaning, sitting at the centre of a web of initiatives transcending into multiple strands, which direction should your business take to achieve your desired goal? A word that is in danger of becoming mis-understood, mis-used, perhaps meaningless as we jump onto its runaway band waggon of ideas without looking at the bigger picture, a picture so vast, so continually transforming, it is futile to expect us to view & understand in a single glance.
With so much happening, multinationals to independents within every sector, citing sustainability achievements it is little wonder that consumers have become confused, disillusioned. Examples of green-washing continually being identifies & reported across the media amplifying frustration & distrust. Businesses are starting to call for terminology to be better defined: Alex Wright, co-founder of carbon neutral company Dash Water dash-water.com has recently asked for a ‘realistic international benchmark for carbon neutrality’ (Grocer 08/22). Whilst sustainability may be well intentioned, the cry for measurable changes & improvements is growing. ESG, Environment Social Governance, has emerged, as a new phrase & indeed a perhaps a new phase, one that aims to offer a new & improved version of sustainability.
Green Washing …
In 2018, Nestlé released a statement saying that it had “ambitions” for its packaging to be 100% recyclable or reusable by 2025. However, environmental groups & other critics pointed out that the company hadn’t released clear targets, a timeline to accompany its ambitions or additional efforts to help facilitate recycling by consumers. In Break Free From Plastic’s 2020 annual report, Nestlé, along with Coca-Cola & PepsiCo, were named the world’s top plastic polluters for the third year in a row. Earth.org
Just this month, COP27 climate summit’s sponsorship by Coca-Cola has been condemned as greenwashing: plastics campaigners calling it ‘astounding that the multinational & one of the world’s top polluters has sponsored key UN climate summit’. (Guardian 10/22) Greenpeace going on to state that Coca-Cola produces 120 billion single-use plastic bottles a year. Coca-Cola has defended its decision claiming it is ‘prepared to do its part’ in the fight against climate change & that it ‘shares the goal of eliminating waste from the ocean’ pointing out their ‘ambitious goals’ include helping to collect & recycle a bottle or can for every one they sell by 2030’ … or trying to make amends, do better
What is ESG?
ESG looks further than sustainability, taking into account the effect on & of people as well as the planet; offering a tighter set of criteria for businesses to follow, applying measurable standards of achievement, holistically linking the many strands of the bigger picture.
- Environmental: focussing on reducing C02 & other greenhouse emissions, looking after the environment.
- Social: the relationships that businesses have with local communities, with their employees their stakeholders & those they source from.
- Governance: fair & transparent management, full disclosure to relevant stakeholders, investors & customers.
A number of the key trends identified as we head towards 2023 position themselves beneath the over-arching sustainability/ESG banner.
Regenerative Agriculture (regen ag): any form of farming – the production of food or fibre – which at the same time improves the environment; food from sustainable sources, focusing on issues such as healthy soil & biodiversity. Our GSR statistics point healthy soil as having the greatest appeal to consumers when questioned on preferences for the Future Food Trends report, so what exactly does healthy soil mean? Soil is where it all begins; ‘the UK has over 700 types of soil, it is one of our greatest natural assets’ defrafarming.blog.gov.uk Fundamental to our farming system & to producing the food we eat, healthy soil increases our resilience to climate change, by storing carbon & locking in greenhouse gases that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. With the advent of powerful machinery & new chemicals British farmers tripled their arable yield & doubled milk production from the 1950s through to 2000, when many began to understand the true cost. Last year a two-day festival, Groundswell, ‘the Glastonbury of farming’ hosted over 3500 regenerative farmers, with the then Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, George Eustice, addressing the assembly by saying ‘everyone recognises the need to change our approach to tackle the environmental challenges, both on climate change, but also on biodiversity’.
Dan Cox, @chefdancox chef, turned farmer, is adamant that if we care about what we eat & the survival of the planet then we mus
t make soil a priority. Cox was heading up the test kitchen at Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume https://www.lenclume.co.ukwhen the farm managers retired & he decided to give it a go himself. Now the owner of Meliot, his farm in Cornwall, & an advocate of healthy soil & regenerative farming methods. He practises no tilling, thereby minimising soil disturbance, which in turn prevents erosion, allowing the complex & diverse ecosystem to thrive. Neither does he use pesticides or chemical fertilisers. His mandate: ‘improve soil health, improve nutrition… improve nutrition, improve flavour.’ New ways to farm, or indeed old ones, are not only being practiced by the smaller independents like Meliot Farm & Flourish Producehttps://www.flourishproduce.co.uk ‘horse powered speciality crops grown for chefs’, plenty of the bigger players are in on the game too, investing heavily to help secure a sustainable future. We’re loving it… McDonald’s are actively looking to accelerate their ESG goals, Plan for Change https://www.mcdonalds.com/gb/en-gb/our-plan-for-change.html sets out their strategy with actions & goals that are measurable. Already committed to sustainable sourcing they have been using free range eggs for over 20 years, their coffee is Rain Forest Certified, their milk 100% organic their beef 100% British & Irish sourced. Their regenerative beef project in partnership with FAI https://www.faifarms.com hailed as ‘ground-breaking’ by H Wilson, their Agriculture Sourcing Manager. Now in year two of the four-year project, Compassion in World Farming were so
impressed with the programme that they awarded it the 2021 winner of the Sustainable Food & Farming Award. The project is looking at how beef farming can adapt to draw down more carbon than it emits, restoring soil quality & boosting biodiversity.
B Corp Certification, B standing for benefit, https://www.bcorporation.net/en-us/certificationFor a business to be certified as a B Corp it must be assessed by B Labs, a non-profit organisation that audits its ethical standards & requires a legal commitment to bring benefit to shareholders, workers, customers & the planet. Currently just under 6,000 companies worldwide hold B Corp status however more & more are seeing the benefits to achieving it. Bristol based family company Jolly Hog @thejollyhog are the first UK meat brand to certify as B Corp status (Sept 22), their ethos quality – products, ingredients & standards. Using prime cuts of British, out-door reared pork for their product range all major retailers are now stocking their range.
For Huw Gott, co-founder of Hawksmoor restaurant group https://thehawksmoor.com gaining B Corp status was about building a business that he could be proud of, doing things with integrity, making a positive impact. All Plant, Abel & Cole, Charlie Bigham & Innocent are amongst others who have achieved status or are currently going through its process.
What about consumer expectation? We know that British shoppers want supermarkets & other retailers to make it easier for them to shop sustainably, especially as the cost-of-living crisis deepens (Lumina) 56% want retailers to offer more promotions on sustainable products & a further 33% want advice on how to shop sustainably on a budget as well as offering tips on how to reduce food waste.
Sainsbury’s were quick to address this with their recent Sainsfreeze promotion. Having committed to halving food waste across their operations by 2030, & with food waste costing the average household £730 annually, the Sainsfeeze promotional concept aimed to hi-light the, sometimes unexpected, items that can be frozen & innovative ways to do this to help reduce food wastage. Products were selected from research revealing the items that we most commonly throw away as they pass their use by / best before dates, bread, milk, eggs & onions were the foods found most popular for throwing out un-necessarily.
Other retailer initiatives include the expansion of Lidl’s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), the scheme, active in Scotland already aims to encourage recycling among consumers, will be implemented across stores in England subject to planning. Customers will be able to return undamaged plastic, glass & aluminium containers in return for vouchers.
Aldi Eco Concept Store
Launched at the end of September the low carbon store design was created using sustainable materials to reduce life-cycle carbon emissions by up to 2/3rds, a 57% reduction in overall energy demand in comparison to usual stores utilising efficiencies such as low temp tarmac, recycled lighting columns, solar panels & chiller doors. Making it easier for customers to reduce, reuse, recycle the store will trial new plastic reduction initiatives including packaging free refill stations & offering collection for difficult to recycle items, they will be the first store in the UK to offer a coffee pod recycling point.
Numerous projects, schemes, initiatives are well underway across all sectors of the food industry from changing the much-loved shiny foil & plastic wrappers on Quality Street to a matt finish recyclable paper after 86 years, safe to say not everyone is happy about this, one twitter fan posting ‘I’m sorry, but they’re cheap looking & depressing. They reek of wartime austerity’; however, Nestle say that it will save 2bn wrappers being sent to landfill annually.
Arla Foods have recently launched a new sustainability incentive for its milk farmers. Starting next year, the milk price will not only be dependent on fat, protein & quality but will also take into account a number of other factors including fertilizer usage, biodiversity , carbon farming & deforestation-free soy.
Nose to tail, fin to gill, stalk to stump… zero waste, the new culinary virtue
The Food service sector, aware that their customers are understanding more about the impact food choices have on the planet & are interested in the sustainable credentials of their favourite restaurants are also upping their game. With movements towards what is known as ‘circular economy’, some have already achieved this, replacing the linear model of ‘take – make – use – dispose’ to one that aims to eliminate waste &, where possible, to reuse, repair, refurbish, re-manufacture & recycle, creating a closed loop system to prevent waste, pollution & carbon emissions. We are not just talking about ingredients here either, what ingredients are being used in recipes, what’s selling & what is being thrown away, but all the materials & products that hospitality venues require to function.
New Glocal & the ‘veganizing of recipes’, are also among trends that we can identify in restaurants that are sustainably/ESG aware. Glocal describing the current shift in the global food trade towards regional agricultural structures, shorter, more transparent supply chains & a greater focus on domestic markets, practices increasingly been seen across wide swathes of the hospitality industry. Menu interpretation, however, still takes its inspiration globally, combining complementary products & preparation methods into a veritable fusion of great tasting flavours for us. With plant-based eating on the rise & on-going developments within the meat & dairy substitute category, we are seeing many traditional dishes being re-invented as vegan as more customers adopt a flexitarian/climatarian attitude to their eating habits.
A restaurant designed from back to front. Always with the bin in mind’ … ‘the production of waste has been eliminated by simply choosing to trade directly with farmers, using re-usable delivery vessels and choosing local ingredients that themselves generated no waste. Any remaining scraps of food is then composted… Closing the loop.’
Silo go on to state: ‘we choose to work like this to deliver delicious natural food, whilst demonstrating that sustainable food business is financially viable… we can encourage the growth of other waste free businesses through collaboration, but also by simply demonstrating that it is possible & it works’
@Silolondon – menu projection
Chantelle Nicholson shares a hyper-seasonal menu at her socially conscious, circular restaurant, renowned within the industry for her zero-waste approach, she was awarded a green Michelin star whilst at Tredwells. The Apricity website states ‘skin, seeds, tops &
Chantelle Nicholson shares a hyper-seasonal menu at her socially conscious, circular restaurant, renowned within the industry for her zero-waste approach, she was awarded a green Michelin star whilst at Tredwells. The Apricity website states ‘skin, seeds, tops & tails” all utilised, cooked using renewable energy sources & sourced from suppliers that also follow a sustainable ethos’: the Ethical Butcher, Shrub, Kultured, Sapling Spirits & Renegade Urban Winery just a few.
The interior was also been designed to follow these principals using recycled, up-cycled & repurposing materials: chairs made from old PET cola bottles, lampshades from coffee grinds. Opening times are limited to 5 days a week with an 23:00 curfew, service charge included within pricing to alleviate fluctuating wages. Nicholson states ‘we all need to be more conscious of where our food comes from, & how it gets to our plates & all of those links within the food chain’.
@apricityrestaurant – Chickpea doughnut, caramelised onion puree, wasteless dip & crackers – veg off cuts & left overs, bread ends… no waste
Other restaurants with great sustainable credentials include Moor Hall, Lancashire, the Black Swan, Olstead, the Oxo Tower Brasserie & Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage Kitchen all hold green Michelin stars. Carbon negative Maray, Liverpool; Fallow, St James, London, Pizza at Nell’s in Manchester, Carters of Moseley, Birmingham, & 99% sustainable fish friendly Gamba in Glasgow, are just a very few to try… enjoy!
Concerned about eating sustainably but concerned about your budget? Then give the Too Good To Go App https://toogoodtogo.co.uk/en-gb/ a go, saving food from going to waste because it hasn’t sold in time, feast from a ‘magic bag’ costing from as little as £3.50
Eating out? Insight on how to choose a restaurant & save the planet from Tony Naylor, the Guardian.
Need help creating a more sustainable product or menu, looking to veganizing your recipes, sourcing products that are environmentally friendly? We are here to help, get in touch now, our experienced & passionate team would love to help you on the journey towards making healthy affordable food not cost the earth.