MHA | Is the Green Transition hospitable for Hospitality?

Is the Green Transition hospitable for Hospitality?

Mark Lumsdon-Taylor · May 24th 2023 · read


At a recent conference I overheard a business leader decry ‘how can we go green when we’re in the red?’

If that was true for the sector in which his business operated, it’s no less true for the hospitality sector which is facing a tsunami of impacts ranging from the after-effects of Covid 19 to sky-high energy prices, wage inflation, rising interest rates, supply chain issues, food shortages, increased taxation and a host of other challenges.

And yet it’s a sector that delivered an output of £50.3 billion in 2019 – around 3% of total UK economic output.

Whether we like it or not, Greening is the most recent, and probably the most fundamental challenge the industry now must face. Not only do businesses need to think about what they can do for the planet, they also need to guard against what the planet can do to them. It’s an issue that no business can afford to avoid.

The key is to start by recognising the risks. As much as we’d like to, few businesses will have the investment bandwidth to do everything they’d like to in the greening space, so it’s best to start where the pressure’s greatest and where failure to mitigate will damage the business’ sustainability – environmental and financial.

Sustainable supply chains and food systems can be more costly than those we’re used to, where the full impact of carbon emissions may not be accounted for. It means every business must think carefully about the three pillars of impact, effectiveness and cost.

Customers are another conundrum – matching their desire for change to their desire not to change habits can be a huge concern.

The answer is to address greening step by step, matching a companies’ actions to its ability to take action; and where avoidance would impact profitability.

Sadly, this article lacks the word-count to go into granular detail, but there are some simple principles that at least help in establishing a healthy attitude towards greening.

  1. Begin by establishing the scope of your ambition – is it to minimize risk, comply with regulation or is there an opportunity build reputational value that could translate into increased profitability?
  2. Next comes a gap analysis – looking at where you are today and where you’d like to be. From that comes your roadmap.
  3. Radical change isn’t the only option and, frankly, it can be a scary one anyway. Often consumers can be nudged towards behaviour change that will help you meet the dual goals of sustainability and profitability. Authentic and persuasive reasons, matched to your customers’ aspirations, can work wonders.
  4. Is local food sourcing an option? If not, it’s worth considering the company’s role in influencing sustainable food supply chains – positive involvement can enhance reputational value significantly, encouraging consumers to ‘do the right thing by you’ because you’re doing the right thing for them.
  5. What are the things you have most control of? Is it reducing waste, cutting pollution emissions, minimizing environmental impact, improving employee engagement, lowering energy and water consumption, advancing diversity recruitment or promoting a greater range of healthy products? Whatever it is (or they are), every step-change counts.

Whatever a food and beverage business decides to do, there’s one incontrovertible fact – it’s no longer really about choice. Your customers can vote with their feet if they feel you’re under-prioritising green issues. But that doesn’t mean they expect you to make a hirsute loss in the process. Profit isn’t yet a dirty word and we do not subscribe to a ‘green wash; or indeed a ‘green wish’. Unacceptable.

Achieving purpose with profit means a resilient supply chain, a positive attitude to change, a transparent dialogue with customers, a sensible look at the things that could be changed (such as packaging, food wastage, portion control, sourcing transparency, process efficiencies) and critically, to celebrate the benefits that sustainability can undoubtedly bring.

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