Is it Ethical? 3 ways to be a more ethical operation

For the Millennials, it was “is it organic?” but for Generation Y and Generation Z, the big question on their lips is “is your business ethical?”. These up and coming generations care for not only the food they consume on an individual level, but the supply chain in which it came through to get there and what happens afterwards. Caring about these considerations is not just limited to these groups either as natural evolution always allows us to become more aware, connected and educated on what is right and wrong in the world and this includes older generations. But when you’re born at the peak of food culture and awareness, it’s no wonder Gen Y and Gen Z have it on their minds. With these generations moving into the spending seat and favouring food purchases over many other categories, how can your hospitality business ensure it upholds ethical standards that not only win the hearts of these customers but gives back to the community it services? We’ve got three ways for you to get started. 

1. Give back to a good cause

Ground your business in doing good for the wider community and you have achieved step one. This can be via donating to a cause in the local area every once in a while or embedding a donation system into your business model. CafeSmart in Australia is an example of the former, an annual event that raises money and awareness for the homeless. On one day a year, $1 from every coffee sold at participating cafes is donated to local projects tackling the issue of homelessness head on. Even Stevens, the US social enterprise sandwich shop founded by Steven Down and set to achieve $26 million in annual sales this year, is an example of the latter. For every one sandwich sold, another is donated to local non-profit partners in the neighbourhood in which the store does business. Both methods give back and both emphasise the social conscience you and your business have. 


2. Measure and reduce your food waste footprint

Food waste is a major issue across the globe. In the UK, a third of produce is wasted each year by the restaurant industry. More staggeringly, in America $165 billion of food is wasted annually with only 14.3% of food waste being recycled in restaurants and only 1.4% being donated. Similar astounding figures show up around the world in the hospitality category making food waste one of the biggest challenges the hospitality industry has to overcome. Thankfully, companies like Winnow, Too Good to Go and SecondBite are offering you solutions to lessen your food waste footprint. Winnow is a tech start-up that is helping restaurants in the UK cut their food waste by assessing the value of what’s being dumped, both in terms of cost and environmental impact. Putting a dollar figure on the food being wasted has caused restaurants using the technology to lower their food waste footprint between 40 and 70%. Danish-designed Too Good to Go is an app that allows customers to buy meals at restaurants which would have otherwise been thrown out for a lower cost. And Australian food finder, SecondBite collects unwanted ingredients from suppliers to take it off their hands and feed people in need with it. By partnering with companies hoping to reduce food waste by either implementing better waste management systems or passing food on, you are showing you’re aware of the issue and doing your bit to tackle it. 

Winnow's food waste analysis system  image via Gulf News

Winnow's food waste analysis system image via Gulf News


3. Source ingredients locally

Gain customer support by supporting the producers, farmers and growers around your business. The younger generations know that local food has travelled less meaning it is fresher and has a smaller carbon footprint. They know local ingredients are generally more nutritious. They know locally farmed animals are often heritage breeds who are likely to have lived a better life, free range and on greener pastures. They know buying local boosts the local economy, keeping money amongst their own people. And they know that supporting local food producers keeps their rural landscape and stimulates national food security. All of these things are important to them and cannot be achieved through sourcing ingredients through the global supply chain. So, if you want to appeal to Gen Y and Gen Z, sourcing ingredients from the local community and then emphasising your respect for provenance is a surefire way of letting them know you think like they do. 

You might think that implementing ethical aspects such as these into a hospitality business seems like money out the door as you have to invest in technology or donate revenue however, as Even Stevens sandwich shop has seen, by showing your social and environmental awareness radar is pointing in the right direction (which for them is donating sandwich for sandwich) you generate a gentle wave of word-of-mouth referrals from your favouring customers. The sandwich shop’s donation system has saved them 6% of their overall budget that would have been spent on marketing. Being an ethical business can range from partaking in charity-based practices, managing your food waste or being a completely ‘locally sourced’ operation - it can even be all three - but by doing one, some or all then you are placing yourself in the most ideal position to appeal to the people who spend big and frequently on their food.