Food for thought: How to develop a more eco-conscious business
Over recent years, consumers — particularly within millennial and Gen-Z demographics — have begun to prioritise sustainability and environmental credentials when choosing which business to support. As companies across all industries are navigating this shift in consumer expectations, Barry Crackett from Brushtec shares some steps that the food and drink sector can take to deliver more sustainable products to their customers, and become more eco-conscious as a brand.
Everything we eat has a carbon footprint, from the avocados that travel almost 6,000 miles to reach our plates to the British-reared beef we buy from our local supermarket (Food Miles). And while recent surveys have found that 96% of US and UK consumers believe their personal actions are important and can make a difference, 88% felt that they brands they support should help them in becoming more eco-friendly (Forbes). Below are some ways your business can improve its sustainability credentials and make it easier for your customers to make environmentally conscious purchases.
Monitoring 'food miles'
Becoming more aware of food miles and imported produce is a great first step when improving your business' sustainability. As a country, we import a vast amount of food from abroad, and while this allows us to enjoy our favourite items all year round it comes at the price of a large carbon footprint. One of the most effective ways to reduce this impact is by sourcing British-made, seasonal produce wherever possible. According to a recent report, this is something UK consumers continue to prioritise when buying food, with support for British farmers increasing for the fifth year in a row (OnePoll).
It's also worth assessing your delivery process to determine just how environmentally friendly it is. For instance, your business could make the change to a different courier or delivery service that has better eco credentials, uses cleaner energy, or practices carbon offsetting. Similarly, streamlining deliveries by grouping orders and offering bulk deliveries can help to make the exchange of products from business to customer not only more sustainable, but potentially more efficient and cost-effective too (FSB).
Sourcing sustainable produce
In general, the advice for those concerned with their environmental impact is to not only eat less meat but to aim for better quality meat when they do. Sourcing meat and poultry that is produced as sustainably as possible is therefore a crucial way to help customers in the food and drink industry know that they are making more ethical purchases, and supporting a company that works with reputable suppliers.
British beef is generally held to high standards such as Freedom Foods or the Red Tractor scheme, the latter of which reassures consumers that a product has been made in Britain and approved in terms of animal welfare, food safety, traceability, and environmental protection (KCS Compliance). Some farms take extra measures to ensure the welfare of their livestock, such as using cow brushes that can actually increase milk production while benefitting their mood and quality of life. Among rising concerns over the sustainability of animal farming, products that have these marks of quality assurance and traceability in the supply chain can help to inspire much more confidence in your customer base.
Understanding packaging and food labels
Finally, as well as reducing single-use plastic within your operations (be that in the form of packaging materials or disposable cutlery) and replacing this with reusable or recyclable alternatives, having a solid understanding of product labelling can also determine how ethical and conscious your brand is.
Much like the Freedom Foods or Red Tractor guarantees, there are a host of ethical buzzwords and certifications that brands can label their products with. From organic, free-range, and grass-fed to Fair Trade and 'No Palm Oil', it can be slightly overwhelming for customers to differentiate between the various different 'eco-labels' out there and be sure of what they all mean (Forbes). So, while incredibly important (and actually a driver of more sustainable production across the world), these certifications should be used wisely in order to have the most meaningful impact to consumer habits.
As public attitudes towards sustainability and conscious production shift, it is vital that businesses in the food and drink industry adapt to meet these changes. Becoming more aware of 'food miles' and sourcing seasonal British produce is a great place to start.