All together now: Will your staff buy into your ethical dream?


Mark Selby, co-founder of Wahaca

Huw Gott, co-founder of Hawksmoor

Douglas McMaster, Head Chef and owner, Silo

Simon Boyle, Chef Founder, Brigade and Beyond Food Foundation

Guillaume Rochette, Co-Managing Director, Eureka Executive Search

This session provided a fascinating insight into how businesses both large(-ish) and small can imbue their philosophy across their entire team.

The panellists in this session not only revealed their secrets for ensuring that their workforce buy in to their ethical dream in terms of training, but also discussed the importance of staff treatment in ensuring you can take people with you on the journey.

Keep it simple

Mark Selby said that while sustainability remained a core part of Wahaca’s operation, the challenge of engaging the workforce has grown along with the business which now boasts 22 sites and 1,000 employees. But Mark and his co-founder Thomasina Miers still meet all new employees, talking them through their ethos. He said communicating a clear message is key and at Wahaca that is about not leaving a negative impact on the planet. Now team members play an active part, generating new ideas for how the business can be even more sustainable.

Employees at Hawksmoor learn about the business’ commitment to sustainable sourcing with regular trips to their suppliers, including the farms supplying Ginger Pig and to Brixham, from where they source their seafood. Huw Gott said this really helped staff understand the importance of high welfare meat, in particular.

Silo, which opened last year in a blaze of publicity about its sustainable credentials has attracted people with a shared vision, said founder Douglas McMaster. He said that with a small staff of 20, all committed to a shared vision, the restaurant was continually coming up with new ideas. Fishing, hunting and foraging trips as well as visits to local suppliers helped further stoke the passion of his team.

Living Wage

The panellists were asked for their views on the new National Living Wage. All agreed that it was a positive move and acknowledged their responsibility to ensure their staff earned enough to live on. Mark said that businesses like Wahaca were having to work out how they were going to adjust to the higher wage regime at a time when commercial rents were spiralling. But, he said that with the private rented sector also going through the roof, there was an imperative to ensure staff earned enough to live in London.

Work life balance

All of the panellists, bar Guillaume Rochette, said the being a good employer involved more than just being a fair payer. They accepted that in the modern world they need to consider the work life balance. Guillaume said that people entering the business had to accept that it involved long and anti-social hours or shouldn’t get involved. Douglas agreed that people looking to work at Silo should do so with their eyes open. Some recruits had started under this misconception that working in a sustainable restaurant would be a cushy gig. Far from it, he said. Any business that’s trying to make a change has to work even harder. But that doesn’t have to be at the expense of fair treatment and all bar one member of the Silo team is already earning the Living Wage

More than 96% of staff at Hawksmoor are already earning more than the London Living Wage, Huw said, adding that ensuring that people are paid fairly and have a good life out of work is crucial to building a working environment in which people want to stay.

Top Tips

  1. Use a clear message to communicate your ethos to staff from day one
  2. Encourage employees to contribute sustainability ideas
  3. Take team members on visits to meet suppliers so they buy into your sourcing policies
  4. Treat your staff well and they’ll stick with you for the long term and be your best ambassadors
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