Three and Easy

The Footprint Triple Bottom Line awards are recognising companies which look to turn a profit from going green.

Euromonitor research found that green credentials have become mainstream. They may not be the main determiner, but consumers expect them alongside attributes such as quality and functionality and use them as part of their decision-making process when choosing what to buy.

A Footprint consumer survey, meanwhile, found that 67% of respondents would like to know more about the ethics of food and products when they are eating out. This chimes with Unilever research: a third of consumers are choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good. Consumer research by the Soil Association has showed that consumers are searching out products with credible, audited supply chains, following increasing levels of distrust among shoppers. Supply chain responsibility was also a key trend identified by the Footprint Sustainability Index Trends Report 2016.

The logic is this: if a high street outlet sells a pasty made with meat and eggs, then customers increasingly want to know that the steak is from British cows and the eggs are from hens allowed to range freely. Consumers are applying this thinking across the board – from the emissions generated by deliveries to the water used in growing tomatoes. And Unilever estimates that this interest creates a €966 billion (£820 billion) opportunity for brands that make their sustainability credentials clear.

The importance of a sustainable supply chain is increasingly being recognised by industry, and successes are celebrated annually at the Footprint Triple Bottom Line (TBL) Awards. “Responsible sourcing is central to procurement,” says Gill Thomas, sales director at Brakes. “The Footprint TBL awards are really important because procurement teams see chefs going for awards, but procurement is usually forgotten. These awards mean that their efforts are finally getting recognition.”

Originally an accounting framework, a triple bottom line (TBL) approach goes beyond the traditional measures of profits, return on investment, and shareholder value. “It captures a very neat idea,” noted two professors of accounting in their explanation of the concept, “namely that a modern organisation has three broad areas of impact: economic, social and environmental.”

Unlike the hard data and numbers in financial reporting, environmental and social accounting is far more nuanced, making these awards all the more important in terms of sharing best practice. “Procurement and sustainability don’t get enough recognition in our market but the high quality of the TBL entries demonstrates that sustainability is taking centre stage,” says David Read, chairman of Prestige Purchasing. “It used to be seen as a hippy, tree-hugger type of thing, but now it’s part of the fabric of everyday life. It is integral to business. There is now recognition of the market advantage, cost advantage and moral advantage.”

An industry insider who attended the awards adds: “Clients are really conscious of their supply chain now. It’s surprising how much they talk about their supply base. Nowadays, to meet the need of the customer that means thinking sustainably. We need to be able to help them improve their supply chain responsibility.”

This type of thinking is becoming mainstream as key players take turns to ask questions and be questioned about their impacts, driving issues along the chain from customers to operators, distributors and producers. Indeed, innovations from winners this year included Kuehne + Nagel combining deliveries and collections into one hit and working with its customers to deliver stationery alongside sausages to maximise capacity and minimise transport emissions.

McDonald’s won for its work on improving welfare standards (and mortality rates) for poultry by working with its suppliers to increase tree cover. It also won for its partnership with Martin Brower to develop fleets that can meet its commitments to run on 100% biodiesel, 100% of the time. The National Trust won for its work on creating a framework allowing its restaurants to consolidate deliveries to save emissions, while retaining the flexibility to source locally. Café Spice Namasté bagged an honour for its commitment to provenance and traceability.

Supply chain responsibility is continuing to embed throughout foodservice, as previously siloed parts of the supply chain become more accustomed to coming together to solve complex multi-player issues such as finding waste management solutions for disposable cups. So even though food price rises might make buyers ever more price conscious, the awards are a timely reminder that investments in sustainable procurement can provide payback in triplicate.

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