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Earth Day 2022: bringing the climate conversation to life in the hospitality sector

Sam Jones, Head of Climate and Sustainability

Sam Jones, Head of Climate and Sustainability | Coca-Cola Europacific Partners

5 min read Partner content

With consumers looking to make more environmentally friendly choices, we are empowering hospitality venues across the country to take sustainable action.

Sustainability has quickly risen up the political and public agenda in recent years, accelerated, in part, during the Covid-19 lockdowns as people sat up and took notice of their impact on the world around them, and by the conversation around COP26 at the back end of 2021.

Fast forward to today and the climate challenge remains more pressing than ever. It’s an increasing concern for consumers, with four out of five UK consumers adopting more sustainable lifestyle choices[1].

With Earth Day now upon us, I’ve been reflecting on the role businesses like ours have to play in tackling the climate crisis. Those working in sustainability will be familiar with the notion of being on “a sustainability journey.” Put simply, we have to start travelling faster if we’re to limit the impact of the climate emergency. If large organisations like ours can help smaller organisations to accelerate, we must. And no doubt smaller organisations can help teach us how to be more agile.

At Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP), we’ve reduced greenhouse gas emission across our entire value chain by 30% and our ambition is to reach net zero by 2040. But we know that a proportion of our scope three emissions can be attributed to our customers, so we’re working with customers up and down the country, from convenience stores and large supermarkets, to pubs, restaurants and more, supporting them in their efforts to operate more sustainably.

Recently, we’ve been focussing on helping some of our hospitality operators understand their role in tackling the climate challenge, as part of Net Zero Now’s hospitality platform, of which CCEP is proud to be a development partner.

In my view, action from businesses is often prompted by changes in consumer behaviour, but this is one area where businesses have a responsibility to take the lead.

Net Zero hospitality initiative

The Net Zero sector protocols offer a four-step process, designed to help pub, bars and restaurants calculate their greenhouse gas emissions, develop a plan to help reduce them, and give operators credible ways to compensate for any emissions that cannot be removed, ahead of certifying the business as on the journey to net zero or net zero.

These strategies can include simple actions like reducing draughts, sourcing more climate-friendly ingredients, turning down thermostats, switching to LED lighting and changing kitchen habits – changes that can bring about a 10 per cent reduction in energy use and a one to two per cent reduction in carbon emissions.

We know that conversations around sustainability are happening against the backdrop of a spiralling cost of living crisis, but the beauty of the Net Zero hospitality initiative is that it doesn’t necessitate a trade-off between additional costs and the environment. The small and simple changes laid out by the sector protocols can equate to a financial saving for outlets, while avoiding potentially significant and costly interventions for businesses in the future.

We’ve started out on the journey with a number of our customers so far, one of them being Tom McManus of McManus Pubs, who made a comment that’s stuck in my mind: “The benefits of going towards net zero are not just about the planet and doing our piece; it makes good business sense.”

As Tom remarks, the overarching aim of the initiative is of course to help licensed operators in GB efforts to reach net zero, but it also goes a long way in helping them with their recruitment efforts, and when it comes to standing out to consumers looking for somewhere to eat and drink.

More than two-thirds of consumers think sustainability is an important consideration when eating out[2]. And as businesses, we’ve got to make sure we’re meeting this demand.

Using hospitality venues to kick-start important conversations

While we tend to talk about sustainability against the backdrop of political events like the UN Climate Change Conference, it’s now become part of everyday life. More than half of consumers would like to see relevant information about the sustainability credentials of their food and drink on menus (58%)[3].

Hospitality venues are exactly the type of businesses that can help to kick-start conversations around sustainability, and really drive home the importance of everyone taking action.

For consumers, we’re taking the concept of sustainability from being more than a piece of paper in a boardroom or a discussion point at Westminster, and quite literally putting it on the menu, bringing it to life in a more tangible way.

I’m hugely excited about this initiative and the potential it has to drive change. Shifting the dial on sustainability is about every company doing what they can, even if it’s just starting the conversation.

The more aware companies are of what they can do, the more potential they have to make an impact. And the Net Zero hospitality initiative helps them to realise that potential.

I look forward to opening up dialogue with customers and stakeholders and seeing them take steps along their own net zero journey. The more that this conversation happens, the better we can understand where the industry needs to go.

[1] Deloitte, Sustainable Consumer research, April 2021

[2] UKHospitality Future Shock Report 10th Edition, March 2022

[3] UKHospitality Future Shock Report 10th Edition, March 2022


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Read the most recent article written by Sam Jones, Head of Climate and Sustainability - To reach Net Zero we have to lead the charge together


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