Sustainablility: Assessing and Improving Your Environmental Impact

Last week, we talked about sustainability in the food and hospitality industry. We at Future Food believe the environmental impact your food business has is a key component of your success as it not only promotes consumer following but also reduces long-term costs leaving your business more room to grow. It is also a responsibility that the food and hospitality industry must own as it is no longer acceptable to waste resources and contribute negatively to the world around us.

We routinely assist food businesses in ensuring they are operating as efficiently as possible. It is part of our operational consulting services as well as it being included in our masterplanning process when working with our clients to create world class food precincts. 

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So for this week’s Feed article, we are going to walk you through the important steps of assessing your business on how sustainable it is on an operational level and where changes can be made to achieve your sustainability goals.

Before Starting

Define why

When deciding to become a more sustainable business or precinct, firstly it’s important to ask yourself why you are doing it. Sustainability is an important part of operating but there will be specific reasons to your business as to why it is in the best interest to be more environmentally friendly. Once the reasons are defined, it will make it much easier to stay true to your standards and set relevant, focussed strategies to achieve these standards.

Is it because there are rising costs associated with labour, energy, water and materials? Or the customer and community demands good social and environmental performance? Or maybe you want to sell a product at a premium so it needs to be superior in the ingredients used, provenance and impact on the environment. Whatever it is, by defining your reasons why, your business intentions are set and you will be able to address key areas in a determined and results-driven way.  


Step 1

Know your baseline figures

  • How much energy, water, waste or carbon is your business or precinct using?
  • Do you monitor and record it?
  • Is there someone monitoring waste output and disposal?

Getting these numbers down on paper will help you monitor your improvements and evaluate your progress on a routine basis. Data is key to really understanding how sustainability efforts impact business and metrics including time, money and consumption can all be used to measure this. It will also assist you in creating targets which you and your staff can aim towards.


Step 2

Know what you’re using and where

  • Do you know where your business is using the most energy or water? 
  • Do you know what areas of your operation use the most resources? 
  • What impact does staff behaviour or physical layout have on your usage? 
  • Do you know which parts of the business produce the most waste?

To answer all of these questions, a walk-through of your daily operations can help identify the areas in resources are used and waste is produced. This way you can see exactly where improvements can be made across all aspects of the business. Are staff having to do a lot of moving around to get their job done? Are there issues with the way equipment such as fridges and stoves are being handled? Are there prompts for staff on how to conduct their tasks in the most efficient and sustainable way possible? Check every aspect from supplier deliveries right through to food handling and make notes on where the areas for change are.


Step 3

Set your actions

Once you have gathered your baselines and identified exactly where the issues are arising, you can implement strategies which tackle the issues head on. Strategies will vary in cost and effort and it is likely that the lower the upfront cost of implementation, the higher the effort that will need to be put in.

Improving staff practices is a low-cost strategy to improving the sustainability standards of your business or precinct however, the effort required to implementing the practices can be high. Ways in which staff can contribute to reducing the environmental impact of the business include housekeeping, monitoring of output and usage, staff training in relation to waste management and meetings on how to improve the business environmentally.

Improving process management and control is a medium-cost strategy that requires medium effort. Ideas such as installing light sensors, improving the availability of natural light in the design, switching off equipment when not in use, setting air conditioning units to a schedule and temperature, separating hot process locations from cold process locations and monitoring refrigeration temperatures will all improve the energy consumption of your business.

Improving waste management is an area where major improvements can often be made. Do you consistently waste the same amount of produce? Do you find your business getting rid of excessive packaging provided by suppliers? Do you have effective waste management plans that include compost and recycling? These aspects of your business can all be improved relatively easily through discussions with staff, menu changes, supplier agreements and a waste management system designed specifically for your kitchen or operation.

image via Wall Street Journal

image via Wall Street Journal

Other improvement options include upgrading machinery or other equipment to more advanced and efficient technology. This can require a large financial outlay in the beginning but over time it can lead to major gains by reducing usage costs in relation to water, gas and energy. A simple example of this is switching to LED light globes which are more expensive than your traditional globe in the first instance but last 10 times longer, use 40% less energy and produce less heat.

READ| 8 Ways to be the Most Sustainable Restaurant in the World

As we have talked about, changes vary in cost and effort but what we have highlighted is that even small changes can be made right away if you are aiming to include more sustainable measures in your daily food and hospitality business operations. If you are a smaller business, there are a number of state and government resources that can assist you in creating your own plan towards a more sustainable future. For those looking to improve measures across a business or entire precinct, contact our food consultant on our hotline today to get the ball rolling.




Credits - cover image of Stedsans Rooftop Farm Restaurant in Copenhagen via Jessica Jungbuaer