As the leading foodservice agency we appreciate how important an issue sustainability has become in foodservice. No longer relegated to the activists and extremist, sustainability and corporate social responsibility has an integral role in today’s out of home sector, as it does across all markets. This is a view shared by ‘Foodservice Footprint’, the trade title dedicated to sustainability and ‘green’ issues.
Yesterday saw Foodservice Footprint stage it’s ‘Footprint Forum’ on ‘Advantage through Stakeholder Engagement’ with a diverse range of speakers both from within and outside of foodservice. It proved to be a very interesting afternoon, as we were taken through different approaches and facets of stakeholder engagement from the likes of Sodexo, KPMG, Futerra, riversimple and BraveNewTalent. With insight from such diverse speakers covering accountancy and finance organisations, green cars and social networking recruitment, the afternoon managed to hit exactly the right note with learning’s from outside the industry often as informative and relevant as those from within.
All had their own take on the issue of engagement and came from different angles, but the one thing that came over loud and clear was that the old perceived conflict between shareholder interests and sustainability is just that – a perceived conflict. As in actuality, the benefits, both short and long term, of action around sustainability work for all stakeholders, including shareholders interests. Whereas sustainability was often seen as an expensive luxury at the cost of the bottom line, it is now quite clear that it is completely aligned to commercial gain, whether that be cost savings from recycling, or staff retention through CSR engagement initiatives, there are substantial commercial benefits to be gained.
Corporate Social Responsibility and staff retention was a key area touched upon, with some interesting stats on engaging with staff via CSR. From Sodexo’s Green Sparks to KPMG’s ‘Bright’ programme, as well as Eon’s ‘Champions’ initiative the value of engaging and interacting with staff through CSR initiatives is something that companies value and can see working in practice.
Sustainability and CSR have come a long way from the token gestures they once were, to something that is driving business. But how can we engage around sustainability? As we know ‘stories’ and positivity are key, making things real and attainable, as well as measuring and feeding back are also important. Empowering stakeholders and listening, as well as leading is also crucial, as although leading by example and top down initiatives developed by consultation play an important part, it can also be more effective to hand over the reins and allow ideas to generate from the bottom up, so that people feel part of what is going on. For example, the green sparks initiative from Sodexo. The afternoon was rounded off with a stimulating panel discussion, including a selection of the speakers, who were joined by Dianna Spellman of Partners in Purchasing, Tony Cooke from Sodexo and Wendy Bartlett of bartlett mitchell, which brought to life some simple examples of how ‘bite sized’ changes can often be the most engaging.
One quote used by Patrick Andrews certainly rings true when it comes to stakeholder engagement on sustainability: ‘If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far, go together.’ Whilst Adam Taub, who moderated the afternoon summed up with these wise words from Gandhi regarding change, which undoubtedly ring true with sustainability: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
On a lighter note, my sleeve for life (a hessian sleeve used to save your hands from burning around the ubiquitous take away coffee) was very gratefully received! – thank you Foodservice Footprint.
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