At one of the recent, gloriously over the top, industry awards ceremonies, I was confronted by a somewhat inebriated man, who turned out to be a journalist on a recognised trade magazine. Amongst other prejudices, he asked what I possibly cared about the environment. Quickly concluding that I was decidedly more sober than him and that his comment was intended to be rather more provocative than constructive, I decided to leave the debate until another day.
On my way home, I reflected on the comment and decided that my little friend had unintentionally made a very good point; albeit in a broader sense than he had intended. It was that the issue of care is particularly pertinent in our ecological relationship. Care is an expoundable word and it needs to be qualified in this context. Do we actually care about the environment or are we all following because everyone else seems to care? Do we care for the environment like we care for our loved ones? Do we care because we are scared about possible effects of the irreversible damage mankind may have done? Collectively, the answer is probably all of the above.
As individuals within the hospitality industry we have varying levels of care. We need to understand how much we care before we can move on to the bigger picture. We should try and establish a hospitality footprint, for the simple reason that we need to understand the impact that hospitality is having on the environment. Only then can we quantify how much people genuinely care overall, determined by how much they are doing to leverage their impact.
Judging by opinions we have heard and the response we have received on Foodservice Footprint, this does display a general movement of care. But what motivates people? What makes them care and is their care deep-rooted enough to make them want to do anything about it?
Over the past year, we have been fortunate enough to talk to hundreds of companies about their green credentials. There are companies with clearly defined sustainability mandates and corporate social responsibility policies; there are companies who aspire to these manifestos but are simply not sure how to go about them or simply do not have the resources to implement their ideas; and then there are companies to whom green credentials are simply not a priority.
My cynical reporter friend might argue that those with sophisticated green policies are motivated by marketing opportunities; that those who aspire to a green message are simply paying lip service; and that those companies to whom the environment is not a priority are corporate monsters, intent on destroying the planet.
The less cynical stance is that surely companies who are reinvesting their profits in green projects are noble indeed. Companies that aspire to have clearly defined sustainability mandates deserve all the support they can get and it clearly shows that things are going in the right direction. And businesses to whom environmental issues are not on the radar will get there eventually, for the simple reason that their customers will demand it.
No business should be morally penalised by the cynics. We need to enlighten and encourage. There are commercial realities, which simply cannot be judged as environmental indifference and put down to the fact that people don’t actually care.
So there we are: WE CARE! But we all care to different extents. The emphasis of our care might be on different environmental themes. Within the industry we might disagree on issues. But we cannot deny that there is a movement and a general feeling that foodservice does have a responsibility to the environment. I don’t want to stop drinking bottled water from Italy. I don’t want to give up my petrol car. I don’t want to give up eating watercress in the winter. But what I do want is for all of us to be aware of what we are prepared to do and what we can do within the realms of possibility to show that we care, in order to translate this into action.
Let’s hope this answers the gentleman’s question!