BigHospitality's Sustainability Week: What is sustainability?

There are many ways businesses  can act sustainably

BigHospitality's Sustainability Week: What is sustainability, why should your business support it and how can you be sustainable?

Next month sees the launch of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), which, as the Considerate Hoteliers Association (CHA) does for the hotel sector, aims to become the restaurant industry’s definitive, one-stop source for information on sustainability issues.

The launch couldn’t come at a better time as being environmentally and ethically responsible moves closer to the top of every business’s list, particularly those in the hospitality industry.

This week BigHospitality will be looking into sustainability in the hospitality industry – defining what being sustainable really means as a business; looking at what restaurant, hotel and pub owners are already doing to make their businesses more sustainable, and how you, with small or large steps can do the same and be able to tell customers confidently that you run a sustainable hospitality business.

Each day we’ll also list products that have been made sustainably or that help you run your business in a more environmentally friendly way.

What does sustainability mean?

The word ‘sustainable’ runs the risk of replacing ‘locally-sourced’ as the new buzz term within the industry. Just as local was hard to define and has become overtly used in marketing material over the last two years, sustainable is popping up all over the place, but what exactly does it mean?

"Sustainable means the ability to repeat without actually reducing the resource. It can be repeated because it’s being replaced or always there," John Firrell, secretary Considerate Hoteliers Association.

For some business owners, like Ike Latif, owner of Battersea’s new eco hotel Rafayel, being sustainable is about making their business more environmentally friendly by cutting energy and waste.

For others, like Bristol restaurant Bordeaux Quay, it's about ensuring the products they use daily can be replenished and don’t have an adverse impact on the environment and for others, such as Gill Jenkins, of Bedknobs B&B in Cornwall, it’s about these and also working with your community and other businesses within it to boost the local economy. In short, it’s about respecting the environment you’re operating in.

Why be sustainable?

Implementing new sustainable practices may not be top of the list, if, like the majority of businesses you've been hit by the recession and are simply focusing on keeping your business financially afloat. However, making your business more sustainable can actually save you money.

At the Lancaster London hotel they shaved £7,000 off last year's waste bill simply by separating out recyclables and Nicki Billington and Paul Watson, owners of JoJo's restaurant in Whitstable, spent just £6,000 setting up their business by keeping sustainability at the heart of the project.

"If you're in business you're going to want to save your energy and cut back on waste because if you don't you're going to spend more money, so it goes hand in hand with good business sense," says Considerate Hoteliers Association secretary John Firrell.

As the media covers more environmental stories and consumers become more savvy about what it means to be green, there also becomes a greater need for the industry to keep pace. A Populus/SRA survey found that 70 per cent of people would be more likely to eat at a restaurant that could demonstrate it was tackling environmental and social issues.

"We are bombarded by stories in the media about the necessity to be greener and people are on the look out to see what companies are doing. Everyone is under pressure to actively make sure they are stopping climate change, companies included," says Firrell.

And, if that isn't enough reason, there is always the threat of legislation being introduced if the trade doesn't do enough.

"When you're building in London now the legislation is such that you can't build without showing you're environmentally responsible and we wouldn't have got the sites we did without a sustainable policy," says Andrew Flach of Whitbread. "The government will eventually bring in legislation to make every business greener so we may as well start now."

How easy is it to be sustainable?

There's no denying it takes effort to implement sustainable practices into your business. Jenkins admits she spends a great deal of time screening suppliers to ensure they are ethically sound and others warn you must do your research first. However, our aim this week is to show you through examples from other businesses and withour own top tips, how you can make steps to being sustainable.

More details can also be found with the Sustainable Restaurant Assocation and the Considerate Hoteliers Association.

For more articles in this feature, click here.

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