Foodservice Footprint Issue 14 – January 2012

Foodservice Footprint FF14-final-for-web-upload-11 Foodservice Footprint Issue 14 - January 2012 Magazines  Sustainability DEFRA THE FACT THE GOVERNMENT  has failed to meet a sustainability target is not surprising (page 8). This is a government that has gone from “the greenest ever” to red-faced. Who can forget the Chancellor’s attack on environmental measures in October: “We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business.”


It’s also no secret that Defra, the Government’s lead department on sustainability wields little power in Whitehall. The food buying standards that it is failing to meet are meant to be met by all central departments, but the Minister in charge, Jim Paice, is believed to be struggling to wrest any information from colleagues across government. Have all other caterers been made aware of all the standards, for example? Who knows?


What we do know is that in the current climate, price is king. As one caterer put it at a Footprint Forum earlier this year: “We haven’t ever gained or lost a job based on our sustainability – it often comes down to price.”


This could have been a factor in Defra’s decision to change caterers earlier this year. Ironically, had it stayed with BaxterStorey, it would “be meeting the majority of criteria in the new standards including that for fish”, according to Sustain.


But the fact Defra, and thus Eurest, is not meeting what appear relatively weak standards (McDonald’s has much stronger standards in certain areas of sustainability) is not the only concern. There is also the strange dynamic apparent between a customer with a huge public spending budget (Defra) and its caterer.


The idea that Defra has forgotten it is a customer and can lay down demands is concerning.  Even more so that it doesn’t appear to understand them. The fish standard is simple: don’t buy any fish on the Marine Conservation Society’s ‘fish to avoid’ list, and buy only fish on its ‘fish to eat’ list or that which has been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.


In January, Defra should publish an update on how it’s doing. It’s unlikely that it’ll be able to convince any other departments to, but perhaps caterers should push the agenda? There’s a good news story here for those that are hitting the standards – many of whom don’t shout enough about their progress (page 20). These standards are supposed to set an example for hospitals and schools too, as well as the public. Is this the chance for the foodservice sector to take the bull by the horns and lead where the Government has failed? Let’s not be left red-faced; let’s show our true colour: green.

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