LWARB releases sustainable food business guide

A new guide outlining practical steps for running a sustainable food business has been released by the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB).

The guide, called ‘Food that doesn’t cost the earth’, created by LWARB’s circular economy business support programme Advance London in conjunction with the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), has been released today (15 June) and sets out steps food businesses can take to play a role in tackling climate change.

Currently, food and drink accounts for almost 10 per cent of London’s total consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions due to the type of food eaten and the way it is farmed.

Launched as part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s ‘Big Food Workshop’, the guide includes contributions from celebrity chef and President of the SRA, Raymond Blanc OBE, and is supported by chefs such as Chantelle Nicholson and Tom Hunt, as well as many of London’s pioneering pubs, cafés, caterers and venues. 

In the guide, Blanc presses food businesses to work towards “a food future that improves rather than damages the environment and which extracts maximum value out of your precious ingredients”.

The guide outlines how the current food system is “unsustainable”, contributing to air and soil pollution, depletion of groundwater reserves and non-renewable mineral resources as well as accelerating climate change.

Correspondingly, it presses for businesses to go circular and be more resilient to future shocks by focusing on ‘seven ingredients’, which are essential to lowering the carbon footprint of the food business: food and drink, facilities management, energy, consumables, water, transportation and packaging.

Commenting on the guide Andrew Stephen, CEO of the SRA, said: “This guide provides clear, scalable steps for any restaurant keen to play its part in tackling climate change, highlighting the huge benefits for business and the planet of getting more out of fewer resources and taking every possible step to waste as little as possible.”

Liz Goodwin, Chair of LWARB and Senior Fellow and Director, Food Loss and Waste at the World Resources Institute, said: “Food is such a vital part of our social and cultural heritage but the current way our food is produced and wasted is crossing several planetary boundaries. With this guide, we want to help food establishments make a positive change and participate in London’s transition to a low carbon circular economy.”

Emma Chow, Food Initiative Lead, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said: “As a Flagship City of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Food Initiative, London is one of the pioneering cities leading the transition to a circular economy for food. This guide presents important first steps for restaurants to help achieve this transition by redesigning their menus and operations so that they eliminate waste and support local regenerative agriculture.”

A webinar on 17 June at 10am will give food businesses an exclusive first taste of the contents of the guide, with contributions from guest speakers Arthur Potts Dawson (Omved) and Grace Regan (SpiceBox) who are leading the way on a circular approach within their own businesses.

You can read the guide in full on LWARB’s website.

Food waste and the fight against emissions

The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 12.3 aims to halve global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses, including post-harvest losses, along supply chains, by 2030.

Whilst food waste levels fell by 480,000 tonnes between 2015 and 2015, according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme’s (WRAP) progress report in January, food waste remains a key polluter and an accelerator of the climate emergency. In fact, the UN Food and Agricultural Association reports that if food waste was a country it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases (after China and the USA).

Nevertheless, many hope that new food behaviours during lockdown can gain traction going forward. WRAP’s survey, titled ‘Citizen responses to the Covid-19 lockdown – food purchasing, management and waste’, identified many people are adopting new shopping habits during lockdown: 63 per cent are going to the shops less, 59 per cent are choosing to buy more when they do, with nearly half actively checking their cupboards more often before setting off to the supermarket.

To assist in reaching the UN SDG target, UK supermarket Iceland announced in May that it would be aiming to reduce its food waste in its operations by 50 per cent by 2030.