Sustainability has been a hot topic in the food industry for some time now and this year is no exception. From urban farms, to reducing food waste and increasing transparency in the supply chain, new initiatives are gathering pace and driving positive change to improve efficiencies and tackle global issues.

We spoke with the Soil Association to find out more about their recently launched certification for sustainable catering and how food businesses can make the kitchen leaner and greener.

1. What are the sustainable issues that arise in food service?

The sustainability issues in the food service industry are huge and need urgent attention.

  • 30% of UK CO2 emissions arise from food production and distribution and energy costs make up almost a quarter (22.5%) of overheads for the restaurant and catering industry.
  • The World Economic Forum 2015 Global Risk Report ranked water crises as the top risk to the global economy. Businesses and caterers need to assess their operational, onsite usage and changes in water regulation.
  • The cost of food being wasted in the UK from the UK Hospitality and Food sector was estimated at £2.5 billion per year in 2011, rising to £3 billion per year by 2016. 920,000 tonnes are thrown away annually, ¾ of which could have been eaten, equating to 1.3bn meals. 18% of all food purchased in the sector is wasted costing each outlet an average of £10,000 each year.
  • Surveys indicate that despite more than 80% of restaurateurs saying they consider sustainability when making business decisions, 75% say they do not have the tools and knowledge to make changes.
  • Around 45% of workers also feel their business is not green or do not know anything about their business’ green credentials.

2. The Soil Association recently launched a new certification, the Green Kitchen Standard. Can you tell us a bit more about it and the benefits of achieving the certification?

green kitchen standardSoil Association Certification and Carbon Trust have joined forces to create the Green Kitchen Standard, a new certification which recognises caterers that are taking positive steps to sustainably manage energy, water and waste. It allows caterers to prove their environmental credentials and provide a clear point of difference to set their service apart from the rest.

The Green Kitchen Standard recognises that all catering operations are different, so it has been designed to be flexible and to only assess areas you have control over. Caterers are assessed on a point based system. There are a couple of mandatory standard which caterers must meet and also a variety of optional steps caterers can take to score points, for example:

The Green Kitchen Standard has a number of key benefits:

  • Be one of the pioneers of the catering world and work with two of the sustainability industry’s biggest authorities.
  • Tell your clients and customers your environmental practices have been audited by an expert third party, and you have been awarded for their quality and effectiveness.
  • Demonstrate alignment with the energy, water and waste requirements of the Defra Plan for Public Procurement and its Balanced Scorecard (England and Wales).
  • Evaluate energy, waste and water efficiency opportunities.
  • Receive expert advice for continuous improvement, which could help save you money.
  • Engage with staff and customers about green initiatives.
  • Use the Green Kitchen Standard logo for your communications, publicity, website and new business pitches.
  • Receive bespoke marketing support to help you position your award as the symbol of trust procurers are looking for.

3. Who can apply for the Green Kitchen Standard?

Caterers from all sectors can apply for the Green Kitchen Standard, from hospitals, schools, universities, workplaces, cafes, restaurants and events catering. The Standard is achievable for new food startups (and can be a very useful tool to design their environmental policies and procedures around). The Standard would also be achievable in a shared kitchen. The certification would be awarded to the individual caterer’s operation within the kitchen (rather than the kitchen as a whole). There is also the possibility of all users of the kitchen working together to achieve the Standard. For example by drafting communal energy, water and waste management policies, delivering training on energy, water and waste to all staff and/or monitoring energy/water/waste for the kitchen as a collective.

4. What changes can be made in the kitchen to improve environmental performance?

Many changes can be made in the kitchen to improve environmental performance. However, the most effective changes and the biggest benefits will be seen with a ‘whole organisation’ approach. The Green Kitchen Standard therefore focuses on 7 key areas: (1) Management and policies, (2) communicating with staff and customers, (3) monitoring resources, (4) setting reduction targets, (5) operational procedures/practices, (6) Staff Training and (7) sustainable procurement.

5. What is the application process for the Green Kitchen Standard?

The application process is as follows:

  • Application form submitted
  • Welcome pack from the Green Kitchen Standard team.
  • Visit from our GKS Development Manager.
  • Completion of the GKS Assessment Tool and submission of evidence (the main part of the assessment).
  • Date arranged for your on-site visit to measure your performance against the Standard.
  • Feedback and Certification Report from the Carbon Trust with their key findings and recommendations for improvements.
  • Marketing support to tell your clients and customers about your achievement.

If your business is looking for support to provide sustainable catering, the Carbon Trust have published some great guidance on ways to cut carbon in food preparation and catering. The WRAP also contains a wealth of useful resources for cutting waste in the hospitality industry.