Focusing on Sustainability for UK Hospitality & Leisure Businesses

The UK hospitality and leisure sector has faced a number of challenging circumstances over recent years, which have distracted operators away from tackling the sustainability issue.  With the recent UK Hospitality Sustainability Conference, there is renewed focus on this important issue.  This article highlights the importance of setting clear sustainability KPI’s that align with goals, which once agreed need to be communicated to all stakeholders.  We also discuss the importance of identifying a sustainability champion in the business, who has the full back-up and support of the management team and all staff so that changes can be successfully implemented on the ground.

For Hospitality & Leisure (H&L) businesses, prioritising sustainability and achieving net-zero should be a crucial goal. Unfortunately, due to the many other challenges that have been affecting the sector, for many it has been difficult to give it the necessary focus.  However, there are sustainability strategies that can be adopted that also have the potential to deliver cost-savings and increased profits, which provide an ideal starting point along the NetZero journey.

The UK Hospitality Industry is now focusing on how it will achieve Net-Zero by 2040

With the UK Hospitality (UKH) Sustainability Conference taking place last week, there is renewed focus on this critical issue, with the UK’s main industry body committing to help members navigate the environmental agenda with a stated ambition “to reach a 90% reduction in its Scope 1 & 2 emissions by 2030 and a reduction of 67 -78% (excluding brewing) for our supply chain Scope 3 emissions by 2040.”  With increasing measures being taken by the government, and new regulation such as the single-use plastic ban for takeaways coming into force, sustainability is not going away.  Consumer behaviours and expectations are also changing, which means that every H&L business will need to develop clear goals and a strategy for taking measurable action.

Developing clear targets and measurable KPI’s are the keys to improving sustainability credentials.

While many restaurants, bars, and hotels may aim to improve their sustainability practices, unless specific targets are in place it is difficult to monitor progress.  The key to success is defining clear KPI’s which link to sustainability aims – some good examples could include tracking food miles, monitoring wastage and minimising plastics and packaging.

Tracking Food Miles

By tracking food miles in the supply chain, hotels and restaurants can identify their C02 impact and seek to reduce this by buying produce more locally and seasonally.  This will demonstrate measurable sustainability credentials to customers who are also becoming more conscious about where they choose to eat out. Some restaurants are taking it one step further and are now monitoring the impact of individual dishes on the menu.  This makes it possible to prioritise reducing the food miles on the most popular menu items, which will have the greatest impact.  It also gives customers the opportunity to make informed choices about their menu selections, where restaurants are publishing food miles on their menus.

Getting this level of information is not always possible with some suppliers, which can pose a problem.  In these instances it may be worth exploring alternative suppliers who are more willing to share their data. 

If tracking food miles and reducing the impact of individual dishes seems like a daunting task, there are now specialist tools, technologies and consultants which can assist at the ingredient and recipe level to help you plan your food and drink menus, to minimise CO2 impact.

Monitoring Wastage

Any wasted food or drink is money down the drain, so this KPI is one that many establishments are already tracking. However, monitoring food wastage in restaurants is also an effective way to reduce their carbon footprint. By keeping track of the amount of food that is being thrown away, restaurant owners can identify areas where they can make improvements in their operations. For example, they may be able to adjust their portion sizes, improve their inventory management, or find ways to repurpose leftover food. These changes can not only reduce the amount of waste that is sent to landfills, but also save money on food costs and reduce their carbon footprint.

Technology is also developing to support greater efficiency in the industry, such as new tap systems in bars and restaurants that are pouring perfect pints with little or no waste.  Whilst in restaurants waste tracking systems with sensors are being used that monitor and record the amount of food that is being thrown away.  With greater insight, it is then possible to identify and improve areas where the most wastage is occurring.

Minimising Plastics & Packaging in restaurants and bars

Although the ban on single use plastic has already been implemented, there is still plenty of room for improvement.  Identifying and measuring where unnecessary packaging and plastics are still being used, is another measurable KPI target, that can easily be adopted to improve environmental impact and to get ahead of the curve with future legislation. Some examples include using reusable or biodegradable containers and utensils instead of single-use plastics. This can include using glass or metal straws, reusable water bottles, and cloth napkins instead of paper ones. Additionally, restaurants and bars can work with suppliers to reduce the amount of packaging used for their products, for example buying in bulk or using refillable containers.

CO2E Reporting

Large entities are already required to report on their CO2 emissions within their financial statements. This doesn’t mean that small and medium sized businesses should not also monitor and report their usage so that they can demonstrate reductions and track progress. Indeed, UKH also have developed a tool for SMEs to use to ensure they are able to do measure their current carbon footprint to effectively tackle their emissions.

Creating a Sustainability Plan

Once you have decided on which KPI’s will help you to achieve your sustainability goals, it’s important to create a measurable plan, which starts with where you are now, what you want to achieve by when.  These goals then need to be communicated to key stakeholders, with regular updates on progress made.

  • Where are you now:  Once you have decided your KPIs to track your sustainability goals you will need to establish what your current position is. What are your emissions now, what are your current wastage%  UK Hospitality, working with Sky Zero and the Zero Carbon Forum, is able to offer operators a carbon calculator to start their journey with a clear understanding of their current emissions and suggested actions to help reduce it:
  • What do you want to achieve by when? You will need a target for what you want to set your KPIs to within a given time frame. In order to make the most significant impact focus on best reduction opportunities first – or your carbon emission “hotspots”. 
  • Communicating these goals: You should consider communicating them to stakeholders either on your website or in your financial statements (or both!) so your employees, customers, suppliers and the wider-world knows you are serious and not just posturing/Greenwashing. 

Moving the Agenda Forward  

  • Who is taking charge? It is important that there is a member of the management team who takes overall responsibility for delivering and tracking your sustainability goals. For some sizes of H&L businesses there may be a specific person heading it up but often it might be added to an existing role. It should be clear to all employees who the overall person driving the business’s sustainability targets is. This person should have the full support of the management team and have a clear idea how to cascade the overall KPIs to real actions on the ground. 
  • Gain buy-in from staff: Ensure you make progress updates on sustainability KPIs part of communications with staff. Get their feedback on areas where they feel improvements can be made and establish how any changes might impact their day-to-day work. Consider having a sustainability champion or setting up a group of employees to feedback on ideas from the whole workforce. 
  • Inform customers: If you have the data to be able to identify Carbon or food mile information for each meal, consider sharing with customers on your menus. This helps inform your customers on their decisions over food choices. It might also drive sales of certain lower CO2 products that previously weren’t performing as well. Giving this information to your customers will help them see your brand as one they can trust on sustainable credentials. 
  • Making the change & what next? If you have the right team behind you and the resources then hopefully you can set your sustainability goals and make relevant changes to help H&L get to net zero. There are excellent resources on the UKH website for SME businesses to find their way through building their environmental and sustainable strategy here:

Conclusions & Next Steps

There is now renewed focus and support for hospitality businesses in the UK looking to improve their sustainability credentials.  It is clear that the starting point for making improvements is to understand where you are right now. By measuring your current CO2E and environmental impact and clarifying your goals, it is possible to identify some measurable KPI’s that can be tracked.  The sustainability goals will also need the support of a sustainability champion that communicates with all key stakeholders, to make sure the plan is being universally supported and implemented.

Menzies LLP has a dedicated team of advisors to the Hospitality and Leisure sector, helping clients to grow and manage their businesses. If you are looking to ensure you can demonstrate sustainability credentials or would like to discuss how to implement any of the suggested strategies, please contact one of our experts to see how we can help.

Whether it’s reviewing your ESG strategy, implementing or integrating new systems or software, we have a team of hospitality and leisure experts who can assist you, or contact us via the form below:

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