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Food service response to sustainability

Action is necessary for change, this article provides some some sustainable solutions that businesses are implementing.

Becoming sustainable is a journey and needs the owners and leadership to have a shared vision to become sustainable. Without leadership and dedication to pursue this goal, only superficial change will be evident.

As we have explained earlier, it makes good business sense, and it makes sense to protect the planet and its people, but it requires effort, so the leaders need to build a culture of making sustainable choices.

Sustainability policies

Policies provide employees with guidelines on what decisions to make and why. Examples of policies that companies implement to guide the implementation of sustainability are:

  • Employment practices, for example, employment of child labour.
  • Environmental policies, for example, managing water, energy, and waste.
  • Procurement policies, for example, making sustainable choices and evaluating suppliers.
  • Look at the Green Business Bureau’s guidelines on a green procurement policy to get an idea what goes into a policy.

Managing waste


Food service companies are implementing waste management systems to reduce waste to landfills and eliminating non-recyclable products. Some examples include separation at source, recycling of waste, requiring suppliers to remove all packaging, eliminating single-use plastics, finding solutions to manage wet waste, for example, donations to pig farms, bokashi and worm farms.

Employee involvement

Providing staff training about work procedures and rules, waste separation, recycling, saving water and energy, and getting employees involved in community projects.

Selecting sustainable food suppliers

Evaluating each supplier, how they conduct their business and the quality of their product.

Using safer chemicals

Sourcing chemicals that are not harmful to people or the environment.

Certifications and awards

Enrolling in a recognized certification program and has published minimum standards. Endorsement will be issued once the minimum criteria are met. Examples include Fairtrade and Energystar.

There are many sustainability awards that companies and individuals can be nominated to receive.

Certifications assure customers the company subscribes to a externally set minimum standard.

Visit the following websites to get a better understanding of certifications and awards.



European Environment Foundation

Sourcing sustainable food products

Local, free-range, pasture-fed meat is usually sourced from farms that maintain sustainable farming practices. Sustainable seafood choices are made, and seasonal, local fruit and vegetables are sourced.

Visit SASSI a Sustainable Seafood Initiative

Managing health and wellness

The wellness of guests and employees is paramount, so it is essential to prevent cross-contamination by maintaining hygienic conditions throughout the receiving, processing, cooking, storage, and service of any food.

Implementing community projects

Many food service companies have identified a local cause and are supporting community projects, for example, providing soup or a meal to the needy.

Read about Chef David Garcelon Executive Chef, who volunteers as sous chef at St. Bart’s soup kitchen

Employing local

By employing locals, companies gain community support and reduce the unemployment rate in the area.

Climate action

One main reason for implementing sustainable practices is to reduce CO² emissions. A business can achieve this by implementing waste management systems, reducing energy consumption and converting to renewable energy sources, buying local seasonal products (reducing the distance a product travels), and removing non-recyclable items such as plastics.

Buy local

More so today than ever before, consumers want to know the origins of their food. Buying local allows the restaurant to have firsthand insight into how the supplier runs their business; it also facilitates relationships, assists marketing efforts, and provides consumers the assurances they want.

Reducing water consumption

Water and energy are two of the most expensive resources. Restaurants reduce their reliance on potable (municipal) water to harvest rainwater, sink boreholes and implement grey water systems. Some restaurants have opted for equipment that uses less water, for example dishwashers and filters, and have installed water savers on taps (faucets). One of the most significant ways to save water is to train staff to use less water, not leave taps running and use water carefully. Restaurants implement a preventative maintenance program that repairs any leaks and drips.

Becoming more energy efficient

Restaurants are exploring energy-efficient technologies, systems, and equipment. Energy management systems can monitor energy usage. Staff receives training on reducing energy usage, for example, turning off stoves when not cooking, and not using lights unnecessarily. Special switch timers can turn off lights after a few minutes.

Repair before renew

Broken items can be repaired and reused to reduce waste. Restaurants, instead of refurbishing, will re-purpose existing furniture and equipment and where an item is no longer functional it can be donated for reuse, for example old computer equipment.

In summary

No company will ever be perfectly sustainable; as the world changes, so do the drivers for change. Having an integrated plan to ensure that every aspect of the business is sustainable requires total commitment and purpose; people will see through any window-dressing exercise.

A reflection: Zero-Waste Journey

Watch Douglas McMaster’s zero-waste journey

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.


Reflecting on Douglas McMaster’s zero-waste journey, what are your thoughts on his purpose? Comment on some of your insights from the video.

© International Culinary Studio
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Introduction to Sustainable Practices in Food Service

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