8 Ways F&B businesses can prioritize sustainability

8 Ways F&B businesses can prioritize sustainability

Establishing sustainable F&B trade practices is a win-win for the environment and businesses. Judith Cartwright, founder and managing director of Black Coral Consulting , shares her essential sustainability checklist for the sector.

The F&B sector ranks as one of the leading industries for sustainability, according to research by ESG consultant EcoVadis. However, it still has work to do to ensure international F&B trade is wholly sustainable. This is not only crucial to protect the environment, natural resources and communities, but also for job creation and long-term economic growth.

Sustainability also builds resilience, the need for which was highlighted during the pandemic and afterward, when supply chains were severely disrupted. On the plus side these crises forced businesses to rethink their F&B trading strategies, sourcing locally where possible and adopting new processes and practices.

Today, fostering a culture of sustainable F&B trade is a priority for ethical reasons and also because it makes good business sense. A study by Nielsen found that 66 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact. What’s more, sourcing locally, improving supply chains and purchasing efficiencies, cutting down on waste and better managing food costs, drives up revenues, so it’s a win-win.

Key steps that industry leaders can take to prioritize sustainability in their international F&B trade strategies at a corporate and hotel level include:

  • Commit to sustainable sourcing – partner with suppliers who adhere to sustainable farming practices, fair trade standards and ethical labor practices to ensure the integrity of your supply chains, support local communities and reduce environmental harm.
  • Reduce packaging waste – adopt eco-friendly packaging solutions, encourage customers to bring reusable containers and offer alternatives to single-use plastics.
  • Prioritize efficient transportation – optimize routes, utilize alternative fuels and invest in greener logistics to reduce the carbon footprint associated with international F&B trade.
  • Provide credibility and transparency- certifications and standards play a vital role in assuring sustainability, enabling consumers and businesses to make informed choices. Notable certifications include Fairtrade and Organic. The hospitality sector should also actively seek out and support certified suppliers.
  • Calculate climate impact and tell your guests – use technology to calculate the climate impact of the food you serve, based on ingredients, production methods and country of origin. Klimato provides this service via a web-based app.
  • Engineer your menu – in addition to displaying the carbon footprint of the dishes you serve, spotlight menu items that are locally and sustainably sourced. Research reveals 62 percent of diners are more likely to dine at restaurants serving local produce.
  • Invest in cost-saving practices – sustainable F&B practices lead to cost savings and improve the bottom line
    in the long run. For example, reducing food waste through improved inventory management and portion control can reduce operational expenses, while energy efficient equipment and practices can slash utility bills.
  • Get the right systems in place – use business intelligence tools to understand the purchasing cycle and customer preferences, manage food costs and measure food consumption and waste. What gets measured can be improved. Hilton, for example, recorded a 62 percent reduction in food waste at 13 UAE hotels with the ‘Hilton Green Breakfast’ initiative.

These steps have wide-ranging positive implications, with sustainable F&B practices attracting and retaining a broader range of customers, enhancing brand image and reputation, and strengthening relationships with stakeholders. By integrating sustainable F&B practices, including trade, into their operations, hotels can create a positive impact on both the environment and their financial performance, better manage risk and contribute to industry sustainability goals, including the all-important 2050 net-zero ambition.

Judith Cartwright,
founder and managing director of Black Coral Consulting

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