Wednesday night saw another enlightening Footprint Forum, this time on sustainability in the supply chain and as the leading agency in foodservice we of course were there! Hosted at Innocent’s Fruit Towers it was as ever an informative and enjoyable event. As a big fan of the brand for many years now and with a desk littered with small knitted hats at this time of year, I was keen to hear Innocent’s founder Richard Reed’s take on the issue of sustainability.
However, although Richard was headlining, the support acts were also very interesting with speakers from the Fairtrade Foundation, Wealmoor, Two Tomorrows and the Innocent team. You could be forgiven for being somewhat worried in the light of John Beddington’s quote about the ‘Perfect Storm’ predicting how population growth, limited resources, climate change and increased consumption will culminate in what he describes as a perfect storm come 2030! However, Tim Oliver – AB Sustain had a very good point that you could simply shrug your shoulders and give up at the size of the task we have ahead of us, but that’s not the answer we need! The measures both big and smaller business are making to drive sustainability as a core part of their business model, especially through the supply chain, rather than as an add on, are all helping us to move in the right direction and hopefully avoid the worse possible scenario. For once there seems to be a consensus that it is business’ role to drive this need for sustainability rather than from consumers. Consumers sadly may say they are concerned about sustainability, however their buying patterns don’t always back this up. It is the commercial sectors’ responsibility to make large scale decisions to ensure our future and weald their considerable power for the greater good. It also makes perfect business sense to be sustainable. If you trade in such a way that means that your suppliers are beaten down on price so much that they cannot sustain their livelihood, then you simply won’t have that supply in the future. It is in all our interests to make sustainability not just an issue to be debated (although much is to be said for starting the discussion around these issues) but to embrace sustainability as core to business if we want to have a business tomorrow.
The case studies from Fairtrade and Innocent (who have their own certification standards) were inspiring as individual projects, but what was most inspiring was the fact that there seems to be a desire and drive to create strong partnerships in business to leverage power and influence. Whether it’s Innocent’s work in Spain with Unilever or Fairtrades work with Nestle in Africa, these show the need for that ‘Sesame Street’ favourite ‘co-operation’. One aspect of cooperation that has the potential to make a huge impact on the understanding of sustainability with consumers is Mark Line’s from Two Tomorrows suggestion that all the certification bodies come together to create one standard which consumers can easily recognise. As one very clear theme that came across is that consumers as a whole are not the driving force for change when it comes to sustainability, especially in times of recession where money is tight and purchasing decisions are driven by more pressing short term concerns. However, the fact that there is confusion over certifications and what they mean does not help the market for sustainable products. Time will tell if the certification boards will take up this challenge.
However, although a very serious and potentially world changing topic the tone of the evening took an upbeat turn as we descended to the basement of Fruit Towers and enjoyed a fabulous steel drum band, evening nibbles and of course Innocent Smoothies, but this time ready to mix with Fairtrade Vodka courtesy of Fair! Richard Reed then took up the reins focusing on Innocent’s commitment to sustainability and positive social impact. As a keen proponent of employee power as opposed to consumer power he made a lot of sense about how again business really can make huge difference. Another interesting view was looking at their products using the FSA Wellness Score and then plotting how good their products are for the planet based on carbon footprint vs. how good they are for people using the wellness score! Interesting! (sadly Quavers did not fare well despite Richard enjoying the odd pack himself!)
Richard also enlightened us on what keeps him awake at night – nightclubs! What Innocent would have been called had it not already been trademarked – naked! And of course how many knitted hats they have made – 1.6 million!
All in all it was a great evening and certainly gave everyone a lot of food for thought and possibly a few hangovers with the Innocent & Fair Vodka cocktails!
For info on Foodservice Footprint visit www.foodservicefootprint.com
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