How foodservice can plate up more progress in 2021

By Rosie Rayner-Law, Membership Projects Manager, Sustainable Restaurant Association

The 2020 Plating Up Progress report has been published by the Food Foundation to much interest in the sector. Compiled by Will Nicholson, a leading expert in sustainable food systems, the report assesses the progress made by major UK-operating foodservice businesses on the journey to a healthy and sustainable food system. It looks at the triple storm facing UK foodservice businesses; insufficient targeting, lack of data collection to aid reporting, and insufficient progress against targets. The companies, including some we’re lucky to call members, were analysed based on public information across a ten-point framework.

By creating a framework for businesses to be assessed by, the Food Foundation aims to simplify the world of environmental reporting and monitoring for the sector. It allows businesses to clearly see how they compare to their peers, understand what best practice is, and make it easier for investors to make green investments. By grading performance through a traffic light system, it is easy to identify where sectors are falling behind on what’s required for a sustainable food future.

Although the focus of this research was on large organisations, the findings are relevant across the sector. The report sets clear targets for improvement, which smaller and larger businesses can both follow. They have also shared what 2021-2025 leadership behaviour would look like – an excellent place to start if you feel like you’re already excelling and want to improve.

Five insights:

  • Supermarkets are doing way better than the foodservice sector in almost every part of the framework. They have clear targets for improvement and are disclosing data. Foodservice needs to catch up and start sharing information about goals and progress.
  • Caterers are excelling at encouraging healthy diets, but there’s still much work to do. Our SU-Eatable Life project is helping support this effort.
  • To be sustainable you need to care about both product (food type) and supply (where it has come from). We have to shift both what we eat, and how we produce it. You can’t just focus on one – unfortunately large foodservice businesses are struggling here.
  • If you want to be a market leader who’s excelling at serving food that’s good for the planet, you must have ambitious goals. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start – luckily Plating Up Progress has laid out those goals for you. Find sector specific recommendations through the PUP dashboard – choose your sector, scroll down and click ‘2020 Leadership’.
  • There are four key things we need to get in shape in order to speed up the transition to healthy & sustainable food:

1. Better, aligned assessment of businesses’ efforts

2. Mandatory public reporting & a policy approach that regulates & incentivises sustainable action

3. Improved data available to help businesses monitor progress

4. Conditional investment based on sustainability metrics.

Five actions for 2021:

  • Map: Map your targets against the Plating Up Progress 10-point framework
  • Set goals: If you haven’t got targets yet – you need to set some. Identify an area for improvement, assess what data and information you have available on it and map where you currently are. For inspiration, look to the targets set out in PUP for good things to aim for.
  • Monitor: Make sure you monitor progress against these targets
  • Assess: Do the Food Made Good 2021 Rating for a deep dive into your progress. The benchmarking information in your report will allow you to see how this marks up against your peers.
  • Be brave: Setting public targets can feel scary, but it’s the best way to get the ball rolling on things that are going to be challenging. Once you have a target you have an in-built stake its success – it’s the best way for difficult things to get done.
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