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OPINION: Small changes in behaviour hold the key to industry waste reduction

Rendisk food waste

Climate change is one of the most important issues facing the world today, and the environmental impact of the UK Hospitality and Food Service industry (HaFS) is increasingly significant. But companies willing to take small steps can play their part in affecting much larger change, writes Sadie Westwood at 23red.

In the last year alone, we threw away a staggering one million tonnes of food in the UK and it’s predicted that 75% of that could have been eaten. Worse still is the knowledge that food waste is responsible for 8% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

The statistics speak for themselves and as the next generation of consumers lobby harder than any other for change, the hospitality sector has a business interest, as well as an environmental one, to act.

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But change doesn’t happen overnight.

Throughout my career I have specialised in behaviour change campaigns, from getting people to see the value of giving blood to encouraging huge swathes of people to give up smoking, and the unifying thing  behind them all is that the message makes it easy for the audience to achieve.

You must repeatedly encourage and nudge people towards making small changes, which eventually become a big overall change in behaviour. Crucially, you must be clear on your reasons why. If people understand why you are trying to do something differently, and what they need to do, they are much more likely to support it.

Stand Up For Food Month has just come to an end, a sustained media campaign throughout September to raise awareness of what the HaFS industry can do to implement change and make a big difference to the environment.

It formed part of the bigger Guardians of Grub campaign launched this year. Led by waste reduction charity, WRAP, Guardians of Grub highlights that everyone within the HaFS industry, from the CEO to the pot wash, is equally responsible and complicit in tackling food waste.

Guardians of Grub appeals to those audiences individually and the toolkit has been created for leading hospitality business including Apetito, BaxterStorey, Bidfood, Casual Dining Group, Deliveroo, Greene King and Unilever Food Solutions.

It implores CEOs and founders to analyse the financial angle and then spread the message to their peers; with food waste costing our industry £2.9 billion ever year it makes business sense to reduce it.

They are supported by other senior figures in the UK HaFS industry, such as the Government’s Food Surplus & Waste Champion, Ben Elliot, and well-known chefs including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Skye Gyngell, Adam Handling, Ken Hom, Melissa Hemsley, Thomasina Miers, who have been active in the press and on social media.

Those figures can enact new policies, but it is vital that senior staff, such as head chefs and stock buyers realise the importance of their role, too. They must weigh products to make sure the right amount of everything is bought, weigh waste to see where it is created, crunch the numbers and be obsessed with enacting change.

Alongside this, the campaign appeals to chefs and bakers and their passion for their work. They take pride in their product – and hopefully by embracing new methods we can reinforce that passion and banish the awful feeling of having to throw surplus produce in the bin.

It extends to porters and cooks too. It’s vital that they to hang onto those stalks, stop throwing away those stems and freeze and preserve as much as they can.

No matter your place in the food chain, there are always little things we can be doing. It will take time, but as we have seen with the reduction in single use plastic straws, or the marches against climate change, the will of many is powerful and it all starts with the individual.

Sadie Westwood is business director at 23red, a creative agency specialising in behaviour change. www.23red.com

Tags : 23redfood wasteopinion
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