Net zero for restaurants just got a whole lot easier

By Tom Tanner

With world leaders set to descend on Glasgow next month, a news agenda already teeming with stories about the climate crisis will, so long as there is petrol in those pumps, be absolutely dominated by the Conference of the Parties 26 (COP) come the start of November.

As you read, watch and listen to the news you’ll more than likely have some recurring questions buzzing round your head – something along these lines:

How do we keep temperatures on our precious planet from rising above 1.5C?

How do we hit what everyone agrees is an essential target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050?

And if you’re a small or medium sized restaurant business how’s it relevant to you and what can you do about?

Let’s start with the good news, as let’s face it, after the last 18 months, when every hospitality business has spilt more blood, sweat and tears than they’d care to remember, keeping the lights on (powered by renewables of course) and serving meals.

That good news is that, while for the pandemic, there was absolutely no contingency plan, there is one for tackling the climate crisis. Even better, we’ve got one precisely tailored for the needs of restaurants, taking into account the specific challenges of this sector. That’s because restaurants are of course all about food, which accounts for almost a third of all greenhouse gases emitted and uses 70% of the planet’s fresh water. There is no road to mitigating climate change that doesn’t run directly through the food system.

In the Net Zero Restaurant Initiative, developed by our partners Net Zero Now and with the support of Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) GB and Pernod Ricard UK, we’re delivering restaurants two things to help put them at the forefront of climate action:

  • An industry protocol that sets out a standard for Net Zero against which restaurants can be certified and receive an accreditation mark to display to customers.
  • A dedicated, sector-specific digital platform providing a complete solution for operators to calculate their carbon emissions, set targets, get tailored reduction plans and compensate for pre-existing emissions.

Essentially, we’ve seen the understandable hesitancy to tackle an apparently large and complex problem and developed an accessible, affordable and yet robust means for restaurants to playing a leading role in tackling climate change. At the same time, they’ll be feeding their customers appetite for a sustainable bite and helping themselves attract and retain people keen to work for companies taking action on climate change.

Like any credible new project, we’ve tested it – with two well-known and very different, small restaurant groups. They’ve undertaken the first step of calculating their carbon footprint, we’re helping them take action to mitigate and the third and final step is to compensate via offsetting to globally certified standards, in accordance with the Oxford Principles.

This small pilot showed that the vast majority of emissions are in the food (around 77%). Three measures, switching to 100% renewable energy, replacing 10% of meat with plant-based options and 25% of dairy with plant-based alternatives could save 1250 tonnes of carbon a year. That’s equivalent to taking 270 cars off the road.

The new Net Zero restaurants protocol provides guidelines for any business in the sector to get to Net Zero. It has been peer reviewed by organisations representing the sector and sustainability and climate experts and is freely available at www.netzero.restaurants.

Tso, as you increasingly wonder about the relevance of COP 26 and net zero to your restaurant business and how you can, with limited resources actually take meaningful impact, the Net Zero Restaurant Initiative in the hands of the SRA is here to help. Climate action is now in your hands.

If you’d like to discuss how we can help your business go Net Zero contact Kate Dranginis – [email protected] .

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