What is food sustainability and how can we help?
We live in a world where our natural resources are over exploited and large amounts of food are lost and wasted. Food is at the centre of many environmental issues:
• It’s a significant contributor to climate change
• It’s responsible for almost 60% of biodiversity loss globally
• Farming animals for meat and dairy requires space and huge inputs of water and feed
• Producing meat creates vastly more carbon dioxide than plants such as vegetables, grains and pulses.
28% of the UK’s adult population is categorised as clinically obese. 90,000 deaths annually are attributed to poor diet and cost the NHS £6bn a year even before Covid-19 (2018).
At Bouygues E&S we work with our clients to source produce for staff restaurants that is certified by bodies such as Fairtrade, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Red Tractor. Last year our team at the Home Office gained a maximum 3 star ‘Food Made Good’ accreditation from the Sustainable Restaurant Association. The accreditation is awarded to those who work hard to achieve meaningful targets in food waste reduction, serving more seasonal local produce, giving consideration and action to conscious meat eating, and supporting global farmers and sourcing fish responsibly.
When catering for meetings, workshops and conferences it is also important not to over order, and to provide sustainably-sourced, healthy food (not junk food). When over-ordering does happen, there are plenty of people who could benefit from the food rather than it going to waste. For example, our team at a high profile client of ours recently had fewer training numbers than expected and had a number of pre-packed sandwiches remaining. The team reached out to a local charity, food bank and a homeless shelter in the local area and distributed the sandwiches where they were needed so they didn’t go to waste.
What impact has COVID-19 had?
The Covid-19 crisis has brought into focus the flaws in the UK’s food system, especially its effect on the nation’s physical and mental health. It has:
• forced us to stop and reflect and better understand our vulnerabilities (from both a business and personal perspective)
• disrupted our supply chains disrupted which this has encouraged many of us to consider procuring and shopping locally to minimise risk.
• forced us to buy food locally which offers environmental benefits such as lower transport emissions and increasing community health, and some say it also tastes better.
However, we must also acknowledge the wider sustainability angle. Many developing nations and communities rely on countries like the UK for their exports (such as Fairtrade chocolate) as a vital income.
The downstream effects are just as significant. The Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimated annual food waste arisings within UK households, hospitality & food service, food manufacture, retail and wholesale sectors in 2018 at around 9.5 million tonnes, 70% of which was intended to be consumed by people. Food waste should be considered a separate waste stream and the introduction of an onsite composter is a low cost and effective solution to address inevitable wastage.
What can I do?
If you’re keen to adapt your diet to be more sustainable, here are some things you can do.
• Moderate your meat consumption
• Shop locally and consider local produce
• Buy only the amount you need to avoid food waste
• Invest in a composter
• Only buy certified food products such as Fairtrade, MSC and Red Tractor
• Plant your own vegetables
• Limit your sugar intake
Food sustainability is about culture, health, equity and respect for the planet we live on. If we are to commit to providing sustainable diets that are nutritious, affordable and respect the environment, then everyone who plays a part in the food system needs to be involved.
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