Does cost act as a barrier to Sustainability?

Sustainability and Innovation Forum

Sponsored by



Yesterday, EP was delighted to bring together a group of leading players to discuss and explore how sustainability plays a key role in setting the agenda of innovation across the sector. Hosted at Radisson Blu Edwardian, Kenilworth, the event was sponsored by Winnow.
The main outcomes from the event were the following: 

  • Self-awareness: Setting attainable and realistic goals for companies is a step forward.
  • SMEs are limited in their resources and still struggle to see sustainability as a leading priority.
  • Food waste innovation is a tangible way to demonstrate both cost and operational benefits, but it is crucial that companies embed the rationale and social impact of sustainability within the culture 
  • Food waste is a tangible issue that can drive the sustainable agenda forward
  • Many companies fear the so called “reputation-risk” and the danger of being associated with green washing.  



During the breakfast session, three keynote speakers highlighted different perspectives around the importance of setting stretch targets in sustainability, the route to get board buy in, how to maintain quality, positively impact costs and build a sustainable organisation which supports both employee and customer needs

Duncan Gray Compass Group, Head of Corporate Responsibility
Duncan talked about Compass Group sustainable strategy and why it has never been more important to put food waste at the centre of it. When explaining the company’s strategy, he noted that there are 4 steps to a successful sustainable strategy. 

  1. Tell the story and identify what the key priorities are
  2. Give the context around the issue and why it is important to set goals that are achievable
  3. Show early results 
  4. Simplify and make sustainability policies more accessible to employees.

In this regard, Compass Group has pledged to undertake concrete steps to reduce food waste. 9 years since they last published a CSR report, Compass has issued their  clear objectives in many areas of Sustainable business, including the target to reduce food waste 10% by 2020 as part of the company’s commitment to become a “truly sustainable business”.
Rather than setting a long-term goal, it was noted that setting a medium term, 2020 objective helps build accountability and drive projects through as this often aligns to the duration of key contracts and any change in leadership.
Hannah Dickinson – Director What We do Matters and Former Head of Governance at BNP Paribas 
By looking at a wider angle, Hannah described the current situation as worrisome. 
By 2050 there will be 9.1 billion people to be fed. Along with the need to keep up with the increasing food production, conflicts in Africa and Middle East and climate change will pose serious threat to the current system and as a result we will need to rethink our processes and do something that matters and has a real impact
Corporate Social Responsibility should today be looked at through a different lense. Companies are now required to embed sustainable values in every part of their business if they want to retain talent. 
Whilst 20 years ago young professionals may have chosen a career based on the financial reward, status, or benefits but more and more people are now leaving companies if they don’t share the same ethos and are more attracted to those companies able to demonstrate real impact on the community, environment, employees and customers.
Philip Verey – Commercial Director Winnow
Philip explained that through their global expansion they are now seeing how the cost-saving argument around food waste is important but yet it should be part of a wider conversation around sustainability and the vision for business. 
It was noted that there can be a number of complexities surrounding sustainable objecitves internally, but engaging with innovative technologies that improve processes, provide greater depth of visibility and insight while having a positive impact can support long term sustainable growth across an organisation.

During the debate many noted that more and more hotels are setting massive global plans to reduce food waste.  People are moving from the “we should do it” rationale to actually mobilise and change things. Although that is extremely positive as it shows the willingness to set key targets to push the agenda, there is still a need for companies to push those values across all levels of the business. This is why it becomes crucial to raise awareness at all levels both in management and operations. 
Many agreed that innovation plays a crucial role to simplify process and show some real measurable results. The future is how you measure your impact and how can you move away from manual process that makes sustainability easier to understand. Finally, it was noted that many companies fear the so called “reputation-risk” and the danger of being associated with green washing. Many companies are in the spotlight because of social media and this is why sometimes they don’t want to expose themselves when it comes to corporate responsibility. It was agreed that companies should not be risk-averse and not being afraid of taking serious steps to develop an agenda for their business.

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