AS THE HANGOVERS subside and the world begins refocusing on life in 2014, what will be on the (foggy) minds of those involved in sustainability? Health for one (and not just your own, following the probable festive excesses). The Public Health Responsibility Deal enters its third year and many will be asking for signs of progress. This might not be easy: with businesses able to take a “pick’n’mix” approach in this kind of voluntary agreement, concrete improvements are hard to measure (page 15).
Similar criticisms have been levied at other soft-touch initiatives concerning waste. The Courtauld Commitment (for grocers) and its younger brother the Hospitality and Foodservice Agreement (HaFSA) both encourage rather than oblige businesses to waste less and recycle more.
DEFRA and WRAP say the model works (page 8), but a series of damning reports this year on food waste in particular suggest otherwise. Grocery chain: 4.3m tonnes of food waste. Hospitality and foodservice: 920,000 tonnes of food waste (page 22). The cost of this waste is the figure firms must appreciate, said WRAP’s Richard Swannell during November’s FootprintChannel.TV broadcast. The “true cost” of food waste is £2,800 per tonne for those in the hotel, restaurant, pub or public catering business; it’s the production, transport, storage, preparation and disposal that all must be factored in.
But will these figures be enough to spark action? Swannell believes so. Others on the expert panel suggested legislation can provide a welcome “kick up the bottom” (page 21). Scotland’s businesses are about to get one in January with new waste laws; laws that many want to see replicated to the south (page 9).
From 70 signatories and supporters this time last year, HaFSA now has 170. Good progress, but it’s still only a quarter of the sectors by turnover. More will need to stand up and have their waste counted if the agreement is going to work. Likewise for the health deal.
The coalition wants a light-touch approach to regulation, but with an election next year and health, waste and energy all front-page news, policies and mindsets can change. Perhaps the voluntary model will end up on the scrapheap with the green energy levies?