How can sustainability work with profitability in the food supply chain?

Tried and Supplied, founder Domini Hogg, recently hosted a discussion at London Climate Action Week to bring together experts from across the food service supply chain. The discussion centred around what we should be working towards in terms of sustainability and how businesses can implement sustainable practices while maintaining profitability. It was fantastic to see so many people join and even enter into the discussion themselves. For those who couldn’t make it or would like to share the discussion with others, we have published the recordings here. Speaking on the panel was:

Patrick Holden, Chief Executive of the Sustainable Food Trust, British farmer, and champion of organic and biodynamic farming practices

Martina Jensen, speaking independently from her experience working on sustainability for restaurant groups

Fabien Carre, Executive Head Chef at CH&CO, working on numerous projects linking sustainability, health and profitability

Ylva Johannesson, Independent Sustainability Consultant and former Head of Membership at the Sustainable Restaurant Association

Some of the key points discussed were:

  • how you can’t manage what you can’t measure
  • how collaboration is key to achieving targets
  • the need for a uniform language and how greenhouse gases have been that language initially
  • how farmers would like to be part of the solution not the problem
  • the costs of sustainability audits and how important it is that farmers are able to learn how to improve off the back of them, but often are left none the wiser for how to do so
  • the introduction of annual sustainability audits for farmers on a government level
  • the possibility of a scoring system applied to accreditations and other inputs
  • how different sustainability factors are weighted
  • the key factors to profitability: the way we use products and how we choose them
  • how can we adapt recipes to adjust for less but better meat while still appealing to flexitarian rather than vegan diets
  • the importance of grass as a rotational crop in regenerative agriculture and the corresponding grass-fed livestock
  • understanding how sustainable choices influence price
  • seeing waste reduction as an opportunity for savings
  • the use of AI in biodiversity identification on farms
  • the impact of true cost accounting

Meaningful science-based targets

Following the panel discussion, Ylva Johannesson led a breakout session to delve deeper into the topic of meaningful science-based targets. This covered:

  • the accessibility of science-based targets for smaller suppliers and whether accreditations are easier for them to work towards
  • the need for standardisation across the industry
  • how companies like Nandos approached implementing science-based targets
  • how standardisation and science-based targets favour bigger companies
  • how as a smaller company the promotion gained from hitting sustainability targets is not always enough to justify the time spent
  • the role of food waste measurement as the clearest business case for sustainability
  • the need for baseline measurements and a long-term vision

Reusable packaging and circular logistics

Simultaneously Martina Jensen ran a breakout session to discuss what the future might look like for reusable packaging and circular logistics.

They discussed:

  • the use of screen-printed over labelled sauce bottles for condiments to make them washable
  • training for restaurants on washing sauce bottles
  • the focus on front-of-house versus back-of-house in terms of what is easily marketable to customers
  • calculating cost savings through waste reduction in terms of weight
  • looking at waste reduction through reducing plastic gauges or cardboard thickness
  • ownership of reusable crates and how joint investment affects competition
  • the Czech system for reusable crates owned by logistics firms
  • storage of reusable crates
  • the real cost of food packaging and how that would affect waste if it was realised
  • the potential for loan packaging for takeaways
  • if I had been in this discussion, I would have asked whether customer loyalty could be increased through reusable packaging
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