By Tom Tanner, Sustainable Restaurant Association
Taiwan this week became the latest territory in which the SRA has formed a strategic partnership to extend the reach of our Food Made Good programme. Specifically, our Managing Director Juliane Caillouette-Noble visited Taipei where she met with Chia-Ying Ho, Co-Founder of Green Dining Guide (GDG) and signed an agreement that will help the GDG team to build on their decade of outstanding work to promote sustainable food and encourage restaurants in Taiwan to achieve the Food Made Good Standard. We asked Chia-Ying to tell us about GDG, where Taiwanese restaurants are at on the road to sustainability and why she sees the Food Made Good Standard as the right tool to increase the pace of progress.
Tell us a little about Green Dining Guide – your background in hospitality and sustainability?
The Green Dining Guide is a green diet promotion campaign launched by the Taipei Cultural Exploration Association in 2018. Since 2012, the Taipei Cultural Exploration Association and a group of Taiwanese organic farmers have held a weekly farmer’s market. Through thislong-term relationship with the farmers, we have discovered some difficulties in organic farming in Taiwan. For example: it is difficult for them to enter large-scale sales channels, and the climate affects farmers’ output. This means they have to go to the city every weekend to sell. It is very hard for small farmers! To mitigate these problems, the association hopes to establish a more stable sales channel that will not be hijacked by commercial mechanisms, so it hopes to connect restaurants together to see if a joint procurement mechanism can be formed so that small farmers can have established stable supplier agreements for its agricultural products.
How did you first hear about Food Made Good and why do you want to work together with Food Made Good?
In 2018 GDGbegan to search for relevant organisations around the world in order to discover what other countries were doing to promote sustainable catering. At that time, we found two associations, the Green Restaurant Association (GRA) in the United States and the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) in the United Kingdom. The then CEO of the SRA, Andrew Stephen, gave us a lot of encouragement and suggestions on the experience of promoting sustainable dining. We also learned about how the Food Made Good programme worked, as well as some of the benefits of Food Made Good for restaurant operators. GDG also hoped to promote it in this way as the concept of sustainable dining in Taiwan was not very popular at that time. It still takes time to promote to the masses, so it was impossible to use the rating method when promoting GDG at the beginning. But in 2023, when the Green Dining Guide has more than 200 restaurants in Taiwan, GDG is now ready to start usingthe Food Made Good rating to classify sustainable restaurants.
We are very grateful to SRA for its assistance over the years. Of course, we also very much hope that sustainable restaurants in Taiwan can be recognized by Food Made Good. We hope that the cooperation between the two parties will make it easier to promote the concept of sustainable dining in Taiwan and engage more Taiwanese restaurants on the sustainability journey.
Tell us about where restaurants are at with sustainability in Taiwan?
Taking the restaurants in Taiwan that have joined GDG as an example, in fact, everyone has done a good job in using organic food, reducing additives, saving energy and reducing carbon, reducing resource waste, and not using disposable consumables. In terms of food and sustainable seafood, because it is relatively difficult to obtain animal food that has obtained international sustainability indicators in Taiwan, many meat products are still imported from abroad, meaning the food mileage is relatively high. At present, we also hope to educate more restaurants about how to choose animal ingredients based on the standards of animal welfare and sustainable seafood. In 2023, all green restaurants in GDG will use cage-free eggs. This is our next step.
Are there particular areas in which Taiwan restaurants excel or face challenges?
When GDG started to promote sustainability in 2018, it used the Green Food Manifesto: prioritizing the purchase of organic foods, buying local, following sustainable principles, decreasing the number of additives, providing a vegetarian choice, and reducing wasted resources. Green restaurants in Taiwan attach great importance to ingredients, which is why we promoted this movement in the first place. We hope that restaurants in Taiwan will gradually increase the proportion of organic ingredients used, and at the same time encourage the use of more local specialty ingredients to reduce waste, and their carbon footprint, as well as increase Taiwan’s food autonomy rate. At present, the relatively big problem is still the awareness of consumers. Many Taiwanese people will still give priority to convenience and cheapness when they pay attention to food. The “sustainable diet” education is slowly and gently influencing the public’s thoughts on sustainable diets, gradually changing purchasing behaviors and eating out choices, and gradually turning their attention to organic, environmentally friendly plant and animal foods, and persuading them to choose to eat in these green restaurants.
How do you think Taiwanese restaurants will respond to Food Made Good?
It is hoped that through the global rating of Food Made Good, the sustainability standards of Taiwanese restaurants will be consistent with those of the international community, and at the same time encourage more restaurants to become sustainable partners. Furthermore, we look forward to international sustainability-related information through the cooperation of Food Made Good, so that Taiwanese restaurants can, with greater international perspective
s and sustainability awareness, allow Taiwanese people to understand why restaurants should operate in a sustainable manner, and what benefits that bring. Through the cooperation between GDG and Food Made Good, it is expected that Taiwan’s catering industry will set off a wave of sustainable development.
What would success look like for you – in a year or five years from now?
For us, it is our goal to make restaurants in Taiwan become sustainable restaurants! But we are also very clear that this cannot be achieved in the short term, so this is a goal that must be worked on hard by the people of the whole country! With the assistance of the government, the efforts of restaurants and the change of people’s consumption habits, I believe this is an achievable goal!
In terms of short-term goals, one year from now, we expect to establish a complete “green food supply chain”, so that both ends of supply and demand can establish open, fair and stable sales channels. That means small farmers can obtain reasonable profits, and small restaurants can obtain reliable supplies of sustainable ingredients. For larger restaurants, we hope they can gradually increase the proportion of organic ingredients used, so that the entire industry can develop more sustainably.
And five years from now, I hope to form a more complete “Green Catering Ecosystem”, so that both supply and demand sides, and more and more like-minded partners can join this ecosystem, producers, product manufacturers, restaurants, enterprises and more Taiwanese citizens can enjoy healthier food that does not harm the environment, and it can also influence more enterprises and consumers to join this ecosystem together!