Sustainability Drives Good Business Practice

Foodservice Footprint catches up with Mark Lovatt, Health, Safety and Sustainability Manager at apetito to find out why sustainability is so important to the company.


At a time when we’re all looking to make cost savings and improve efficiencies, moving to a sustainable way of working is far from a bad thing, says Mark Lovett, apetito’s Health, Safety and Sustainability Manager. In his opinion, sustainability initiatives can offer real benefit to organisations; whether that’s in the form of efficiency savings, cost savings or uniting the workforce business wide. All of which have been found to be true at apetito where sustainability isn’t seen as an expense but as a cost saving measure.


Sustainability is not just a ‘nice to do’; it can bring about real savings so long as it’s entrenched in the strategy from top to bottom. It’s not just about carbon footprint but rather a whole company attitude and that’s when people work together to achieve significant goals.


Lovett explains: “You can’t ask people to just fill the kettle with just the right amount of water for the tea round or remember to turn taps off. It’s about making sure there is something to work for as an organisation so that they think and do these things as a natural extension of their daily work.”


Changing the hearts and minds of everyone within an organisation isn’t easy, especially one as large as the NHS. Nor is it something that can happen overnight. Sustainability needs to be constantly nurtured and challenged. Such a fundamental shift in an organisation’s way of thinking can’t be taken lightly.

“You have to take a holistic approach. It’s not just about what can be done internally; but how you work across all suppliers to achieve what’s best for the good of the Trust and its customers.”


What place does sustainability have in today’s health service?


Sustainability has a central place in today’s health service. It is not to be seen simply as a cost but a better way of working together. Its not driven by climate change, but by an aim for a more effective and successful operation.


“Making sure the whole organization is involved in the thinking, planning and doing is essential to enforcing a cultural shift. Employees should care about the organisation, how it performs and how it operates. Here, we have seen people’s spirits lift dramatically. Sustainability should be embedded within daily functions as well as strategic approaches and decisions. Invest in meetings and set up committees so that staff can get involved across all levels of the organisation.”


It’s not easy and it can take years of hard work. However, the results from apetito’s point of view are clear. Given time, energy savings and business efficiencies tend to lead to a better operation. There are the big investments, for apetito this involved introducing a reusable crate system made from plastic crates and saved 100 tonnes in CO2 emissions. Organic food waste was sent to an anaerobic digestion facility in Devon – which provides electricity to the grid and creates an agriculture soil improver. Reducing transport mileage has saved the company around 900 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year. It’s all made for a better, leaner business.


{Nearly 60 per cent of the NHS’ carbon emissions can be attributed to procurement . Carbon is embedded in surprising places and so often the most obvious ‘green’ solution, is actually not the most carbon friendly}.


As mentioned before, people need to look at the whole supply chain right through to the patients. Bring in suppliers and work together to accomplish sustainable goals.


“It’s easy to make assumptions when thinking sustainably,” says Lovett. “Take for example the carbon footprint association with food. In recent years, there’s been significant weight behind advocating the environmental benefits of local sourcing, But, did you know that some product sourced abroad such as strawberries and tomatoes from Spain can actually have a lower carbon impact than that sourced in the UK? This comes down to more energy efficient production methods, which easily offset the carbon cost of food miles.”


Interestingly for such a large organisation with nearly 1.5 million employees, the carbon footprint of the NHS alone is significant, equating to 21 million carbon emissions per year – equivalent to that of some medium sized countries. Although tough targets are in place to reduce this by 34 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050, the carbon cost has actually increased by 16 per cent over the past year alone. Yet, how will these organisations manage to cut costs and make such significant energy savings? By looking at what the NHS is doing itself and by what it is importing. For a sustainability strategy to really work, it must take a holistic view which takes into consideration both internal and external operations, wrapping in suppliers as part of the team so that everyone works to a common end.


There is no doubt that sustainability, whether it is social, economic or environmental, makes for a better and more efficient operation. Yes, investment is needed and the key to any significant change is the people. Getting the right people on side because they want to be and know how to be is a challenge but one that never fails to repay. As a number of our industry friends know, some investments are worth the money and will reap rewards in the long run, even in times as austere as these.