When so many supplies are scarce and restaurant operators are facing mounting pressure to source popular menu ingredients or suitable substitutes, cutting corners on sustainability is understandable. But increasingly, consumers hinge their spending on the degree of trust they have in the ethics of a business. Further, any sustainability risks within your supply chain could damage the value of your brand, impact your ability to adapt to change and make it difficult to remain in business. Being clear about your own mission and values can help you communicate them to suppliers, employees, investors and customers — and help you hold yourself and others accountable. In a recent report from New Food Magazine, Rick Sanderson, founder of the STAR Index ESG Platform, advises brands to focus on four P’s to gauge their starting point in this effort and to actively monitor progress: people, politics, platforms and partners. Do you have people around you who can adapt to ever-changing conditions and who ideally bring some external insights to their work? Are all departments and influencers in your business aligned in their willingness to adapt to changes, or do you have skeptics who need to be persuaded? Do you have the technology platforms needed to monitor and measure your progress, as well as to communicate with customers, suppliers and other parties? Are you aligned with partners who can help support your strategy and objectives — and who are motivated by their own mission to improve sustainability?
Environmental, social and governance standards (ESG) are fast becoming must-have pillars of responsibility for organisations across industry sectors. These standards generally tie a company’s corporate compensation to performance metrics in areas including environmental impacts and workforce diversity. A number of brands in the restaurant industry have publicly shared their ESG standards. Most recently Papa John’s, but also Starbucks, Wendy’s, Chipotle and McDonald’s have made announcements tying their corporate compensation to ESG goals. Across sectors, ESG standards tend to give brands some environmentally friendly luster with investors and consumers, even though they aren’t perfect indicators of how environmentally friendly a company may be. (As a recent report from the Harvard Business Review stated, “ESG ratings are based on…the impact of the changing world on the company’s profits, not the reverse.”) Regardless, ESG standards are increasingly shining a spotlight on what brands are – and aren’t – doing with regard to the environment and social responsibility. Even if you don’t have formal ESG standards, it’s prudent to look at what other brands are saying about their practices and consider what commitments you can make to reduce waste, offer sustainably sourced items on your menu, adopt environmentally friendly products and practices, and improve efforts at diversity and inclusion. Your guests and potential staff are watching – and you have an opportunity to attract them through your actions.