Your businesses will only ever be as sustainable as the team that runs them. Getting your employees or colleagues behind your sustainability strategy is critical to driving change and achieving the environmental benefits and cost savings that sustainability can deliver. That could be easier than you think. Heightening awareness of the climate emergency has made people keen to do whatever it takes to live and work more sustainably - they just need to understand what is needed, how they can help achieve it and to be kept informed about their successes.
Research has revealed that more than half of the UK workforce say sustainability is an important factor in choosing who they work for¹. That figure is even higher for the younger generations with over two thirds of 16-24 year olds actively seeking more sustainable employers. Engaging employees around sustainability has also proven to be highly effective in securing high employee retention levels¹. These are both particularly important factors for food and hospitality businesses faced with an increasingly challenging labour market.
We’ll take a look at how best to engage your workforce and improve sustainability in the restaurant and hospitality sectors.
How many P’s are there in sustainability?
Sustainability is a very broad concept. The UN has 17 defined sustainability goals but for the purposes of a sustainability strategy for a restaurant or hospitality business, you need to focus on just three. Known as “the three P’s”, they are: planet, profit and people. Communicating these key principles is the starting point to engaging your employees.
Planet is the first and perhaps the ‘P’ most people address first. It is what we all depend on and what we must protect - reducing the energy and resources we use, reusing, recycling and avoiding waste. That might mean choosing more local suppliers, switching to reusable packaging, developing more seasonal menus and reducing carbon miles. It might extend to the way people come to work, cycling or taking public transport rather than driving.
Profit might not be the first thing you think about in this context, but it is what makes the whole system work. It demonstrates that you are doing something people want and without it there would be no business and no jobs. So profit is integral to the success of both the business and everyone who works there. A good sustainability strategy will enable profit to go hand in hand with ‘planet’. The less we use the more we save.
The third P is people. The people working in your business, all the people along your supply chain and, of course, the people in the community you serve. Without them, no business is sustainable, so caring for and about them is vital.
Communicating these three factors, and how they need to be balanced, has to be the starting point of your sustainability engagement strategy, so your team understands the core goals of what you want to achieve and how they can benefit everyone involved in the business, as well as the wider world.
Sustainability has to run right through your business
Your drive to sustainability can’t just be imposed on the business from the top. Everyone has to understand the rational reasons you are committed to it. Everyone has to feel emotionally connected to it and everyone has to be motivated to take the actions necessary to achieve your shared vision. Setting this out in a clear set of values is a helpful way to engage employees and show how that vision is integral to your business.
There are various ways to get your employees on board. Communal discussions and meetings are helpful in establishing your shared goals and motivating people to rethink the way they can do things. You will find a vast array of inspiring motivational videos online about people who have successfully pursued sustainable visions for their restaurant and hospitality businesses.
One tactic, that has proved extremely successful, is to seek out those most environmentally-motivated and enthusiastic in your business to create “green champions'' who are empowered to take an active role in identifying opportunities to reduce waste and drive efficiencies.
They can come from anywhere in the business and selecting them from different parts of the business means that they have hands-on experience of operations and insights that will not always be visible from a management perspective.
Multiple green champions working across the business can then form a “green team” that comes together for regular meetings where they can share ideas, discuss progress and any barriers to change that are impeding progress.
The important thing is that they have regular communication directly to the top of the organisation and can actively identify ways to do things better and drive real change. This ensures that sustainable thinking is integrated throughout the business and initiatives are “owned” by the whole workforce.
If you are just setting out on your sustainability journey, finding the right individuals within the business, and empowering them to lead the way, can be very effective in initiating change and improving understanding.
There is nothing more motivating than discovering the effectiveness of what you are doing. Regular feedback on the impacts your team is achieving should be a key part of any engagement strategy. As waste collectors, we can help you identify the effects of waste reduction initiatives and routine monitoring of energy, water and paper use can be used to keep your teams up to speed with the impacts of their efforts. These can take the form of staff meetings or you can report achievements on workplace posters, social media or emails.
This will help reinforce the idea that small things can, collectively, lead to large changes and that every action counts. By sharing these achievements, you will help improve understanding of what sustainability means and inspire fresh thinking about other initiatives your team could take to further improve your sustainability.
Collecting this information is not just inspiring for employees, it can also form the basis of marketing communications to customers who are increasingly looking for businesses that are making a real and positive commitment to greater sustainability. The data that you collect can also be used to help you secure high profile recognition for your work. Our own data helped Olleco achieve second place at the Circulars Awards at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Building an understanding of sustainability across your team is critical to delivering real change and it is hugely motivating for them to know that what they are doing is making a difference. Sustainability has been a powerful driver for everyone in our own business and our teams across the UK are constantly looking for efficiencies that will make us even more sustainable. The Olleco drivers who deliver fresh cooking oil and collect used oil and food waste are fully aware of their role, helping to address climate change, and take real job satisfaction in the knowledge that they are integral parts of a sustainable circular economy.
As part of your value chain, we’d be happy to support you in your sustainability engagement activities and provide material to help you explain how your cooking oil and food waste are being used to reduce vehicle emissions, create renewable energy and reduce the use of chemical fertilisers.