Brakes puts Sustainability First


Foodservice Footprint whtfish12-300x121 Brakes puts Sustainability First Best Practice  Sustainability Green Train Brakes
Brakes Group can claim a lot of ‘firsts’ in its effort to promote sustainability in foodservice over the past 10 years.


Brakes Group is a leading foodservice supplier in Europe with 10,000 employees in 80 locations, and 1,000 suppliers across the world. The group is committed to minimising its environmental impact to ensure that the business practices it adopts today are sustainable for future generations.


A commitment to reducing food miles, responsible sourcing, and reducing carbon footprint is driving forward Brakes Group strategy. The group’s CSER policy has been developed to focus on key areas – including environment and responsible sourcing – carefully selected to tackle some of the biggest environmental hurdles our industry faces.


With climate change now regarded as one of the greatest challenges facing the world today, the group is tackling greenhouse gas emissions head-on to ensure energy is used efficiently and renewable sources are employed wherever possible. To this end the company has achieved ISO14001 accreditation and a raft of continuous improvements is now pushing the boundaries of environmental management. Efficiency projects have already reduced energy usage by 967 tonnes of CO2 since 2008 and gas use by over 30 per cent since 2007. Pioneering projects include an Environmental Management System which monitors energy usage on every site every 30 minutes, a trial of low energy LED and ambient sensored lighting, plus an £800,000 investment in an energy efficient refrigeration system at the company’s Hemsworth depot, Pontefract, to reduce ozone depleting emissions.


Elsewhere the company is working hard to reduce the impact of deliveries on the environment. In 2009 Brakes successfully eliminated 3.2 million food miles. Initiatives have seen new vehicles with cleaner Euro V engines, a full capacity policy for delivery vehicles and the successful integration of Woodward into the group which saw a 30 per cent delivery fleet reduction. A pioneering seasonal initiative with Spanish producers has also seen products transported by rail on a weekly ‘green’ train from Valencia to Brakes depot in Dagenham. With more than 2,200 food miles saved for every round trip, the group is currently investigating extending the service to other European regions.


With an estimated 400 million tonnes of UK waste produced each year, the company is keen to tackle this area. Brakes Group saved 280 tonnes of packaging material between 2008 and 2009 by increasing recycled packaging rates to 40 per cent, working with suppliers to remove excess packaging, reducing plastic film thickness on 160 bagged products, introducing 100 per cent recycled and biodegradable ‘topless’ fresh produce boxes, and switching wet fish polystyrene containers to corrugated polypropylene boxes. The group also achieved a 40 per cent site recycling efficiency rate, plus introduced a partnership with FareShare – the UK’s only national ‘foodbank’. This project now sees food near an exacting minimum shelf life distributed to 30,000 vulnerable people across 500 UK charities every month – a much better alternative than it going to landfill.


Brakes Group is committed to trading fairly and responsibly and prides itself on its supplier relationships with whom it has forged a number of ground- breaking initiatives. Initiatives focusing on sustainable fishing and home grown British produce are an example. Brakes was the first foodservice supplier to introduce MSC certification and currently has 82 approved products, the largest range in UK foodservice – with a target of over 100 in the coming months. The group also partnered Defra to instigate the ‘Fish and Kids’ project, which has encouraged one million primary school children to understand sustainability issues and eat MSC certified products.


Endangered species are emphatically off the group’s list: it was the first to ban Bluefin Tuna and Shark (amongst others) and actively promote under-utilised UK species. Raising awareness about the advantages of sustainable species is challenging, but through imaginative marketing campaigns – such as a recent UK-wide seafood roadshow involving celebrity chefs – it is helping to turn the tide. Little known species such as Gurnard and Cornish Albacore Tuna are also now finding their way onto restaurant menus through Brakes Group efforts.


The company has also been engaged with the Seafish Responsible Fishing Scheme since its inception, which promotes good environmental practices within the UK fishing fleet. It recently launched its own British Skippers Scheme – to buy the best of their catch and offer it to selected customers who can then name the catching vessels on their menus.


Initiatives in the pipeline include an MSC pilot scheme to make it cheaper and easier for independent establishments to become accredited. The company considers that more venues proudly displaying the MSC logo are essential to encourage sustainable fishing down the supply chain.


Brakes is passionate about British produce and wants to offer its customers the finest regional products our isles have to offer. While celebrating culture and supporting local producers, it also considers that this approach is key to reducing food miles, benefiting the environment and sourcing quality product at the optimum time. The company’s commercial team is committed to sourcing British and its specialist business Prime Meats now offers 65 per cent British produce. It was also the first to introduce meat carrying the Red Tractor logo from Assured Food Standards and now sells 300 accredited products, including produce, meat, poultry and dairy.


Elsewhere, the group is involved in the NFU’s ‘Why Farming Matters’ campaign; works with the Climate Group on the ‘Eat Seasonably’ programme and has advised the 2012 Olympic Committee on sourcing British. It is also working with ADAS on the ‘Tasting the Future’ campaign and supports EFFP and DEFRA on the roll-out of ‘Food 2030’.


On ethical trading, the company has a forward thinking stance. It was the first to launch own-label Fairtrade products and continues to work with the RSPCA to expand its ethical range of Freedom Food. More widely, it expects suppliers to work towards full compliance with Ethical Trade Initiative labour standards. To support this all Brakes supplier- facing staff go through an ethical training workshop and the company has developed a comprehensive scorecard system to review suppliers’ ethical performance.


Despite being a serial environmental award winner, Brakes Group is far from complacent. It reckons our industry can and should be doing more, and the company pledges to do a whole lot more itself. Looking forward, the group is involved in a several industry- wide national research initiatives designed to make the supply chain more environmentally focused. These include PAS 2050 – a project to agree a uniform way of measuring the carbon footprint of products and SALSA – a food safety certification scheme defining criteria SME producers must meet to supply large foodservice companies.