Why the foodservice industry must embrace sustainability

Helen Henshaw - CAO
1st December 2022

Sustainability in the foodservice industry is a hot topic, and it’s one that will only get hotter as we see legislation like the UK’s 2050 Net Zero target enacted. We’ll explore what this means for food wholesalers and distributors, how to make sure your business is up to scratch and some of the rewards you can expect if you take actions now.


The current state of sustainability in foodservice

The current state of sustainability in foodservice is not great. The industry produces a staggering amount of food waste, and it is one of the leading sectors contributing to climate change. According to the Food an Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the food industry is responsible for up to 37 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

While some progress has been made in recent years to address these issues, much more needs to be done. Foodservice companies must do their part to reduce their environmental impact and move towards more sustainable practices.

Sustainability is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity.


How to measure sustainability

There is no single metric for sustainability, but there are ways to measure it. The key is to look at the triple bottom line: environmental, social, and economic impact.

One way to measure environmental impact is through carbon foot printing. This involves quantifying the greenhouse gas emissions associated with a product or service. Another common metric is water use efficiency. This looks at how much water is required to produce a unit of food or drink, for example.

Social sustainability can be measured in different ways, but one common approach is to assess the working conditions and wages of those involved in producing or supplying a product or service. Another social metric is access to healthy food. This looks at whether people have physical and economic access to nutritious food.

Economic sustainability can be measured by looking at things like job creation, local economic impact, and energy use efficiency. For example, if a foodservice business sources its ingredients locally, that can have a positive economic impact on the local community. If a business reduces its energy use, that can save money and help the environment too.


What does this mean for food wholesalers and distributors?

Foodservice wholesalers and distributors are feeling the pressure to adopt sustainable practices but may not know where to start. Sustainable foodservice is a rapidly growing industry with new opportunities for those who are willing to embrace it.

There are many reasons to consider sustainability in foodservice, including reducing waste, saving money, and attracting customers who care about these issues. For wholesalers and distributors, sustainability can mean making changes to how they source and transport food, as well as how they package and distribute it.

Sustainable sourcing means choosing suppliers who practice sustainable agriculture and fishing, as well as using fair trade and environmentally friendly ingredients. Transporting food sustainably involves using fuel-efficient vehicles and strategies to reduce food miles. And finally, packaging food in a way that minimizes waste and environmental impact is essential for sustainable foodservice.

Wholesalers and distributors who make the switch to sustainable practices will be able to stay ahead of the curve in an industry that is moving in this direction. They will also be able to offer their customers products that they can feel good about buying, knowing that they are helping to make a difference for the environment.


Rewards food wholesalers and distributers can expect if they act now

What are the benefits that food wholesalers and distributers can expect if they act now on sustainability?

The foodservice industry is under immense pressure to adopt sustainable practices. And while this may seem daunting, there are many rewards that businesses can reap if they make the switch. These benefits include:


1. Improved Reputation and Customer Loyalty

Wholesalers and distributers who embraced sustainability will often find that their reputation improves amongst customers. Adopting sustainable practices shows that you’re a business that cares about more than just profits


2. Cost Savings

Sustainability initiatives often lead to cost savings for businesses, as they help to reduce wastage and improve efficiency. For example, investing in energy-efficient appliances can help to lower utility bills, while recycling programmes can cut down on waste disposal costs. In the long run, these cost savings can add up significantly, benefiting the bottom line of your business.


3. Enhanced Employee Engagement

Employees are increasingly looking for employers who share their values – including a commitment to sustainability. By making sustainability a focus within your business, you’ll be able to attract and retain top talent, as well as motivate your workforce with a shared sense of purpose. All of this can lead to improved employee engagement and productivity levels within your business.


4. Reduced Environmental Impact

One of the most important benefits of sustainability is that it helps businesses to reduce their environmental impact. This is crucial in today’s climate-change conscious world, and it can also result in cost savings (as mentioned above). For example, investing in renewable energy sources such as solar panels can help to lower your carbon footprint, while improving energy efficiency can lead to water savings.


5. Access to New Markets and Customers

By making sustainability a key part of your business, you’ll open up opportunities to tap into new markets and reach new customers. For example, eco-conscious consumers are often willing to pay more for sustainable products and services, so sustainable businesses can command a premium price for their goods and services. Additionally, sustainability-focused tenders and contracts are becoming increasingly common, so having a strong sustainability strategy can give your business a competitive advantage when bidding for new work.


How your ERP system can help

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems can help the foodservice industry become more sustainable in several ways. By automating and integrating key business processes, they can help foodservice businesses improve their overall efficiency and reduce their environmental impact.

In particular, ERP systems can help businesses manage their inventory more effectively, reducing food waste and lowering their carbon footprint. By embracing sustainability, the foodservice industry can not only improve its environmental performance but also boost its bottom line.

So when choosing or engaging with an ERP supplier, make sure that their application can help support the achievement of your sustainability goals.