Carbon Labelling meets Hospitality

We chatted with the CEO and Founder of The Wellbeing Farm, Celia Gaze, to learn more about the sustainability credentials and carbon labelling in hospitality.

by Bella Ali-Khan | Environmental | 17 January 2024

Sustainability labels can play a pivotal role in hospitality by providing businesses with a means to communicate their commitment to environmental responsibility. In an era where consumers increasingly prioritise sustainable choices, these labels also serve as indicators, guiding customers toward establishments that align with their values bringing in business.

For restaurants, incorporating these labels not only fosters transparency but also demonstrates a genuine dedication to minimising environmental impact and builds a positive reputation with conscious consumers.

In conversation

What drove you to create a business with such a strong sustainability focus?

When I decided to transform a neglected farm into an events venue, there was no gas on site. I needed a way to heat the farm and considered all types of renewables. Due to the location of the farm (800 feet above sea level), a wind turbine provided the perfect solution. When I installed the wind turbine, it became a symbol of sustainability and that’s when I knew we needed to adopt that sustainability focus.

You are B Corp certified as of 2022 (with an impressive 97.6 score!); why did you decide that you needed this credential for your business? 

When I left the NHS to set up a business, I became disillusioned with the constant focus on profit and was always looking for something else. Stumbling across the B Corp movement during lockdown provided me with the perfect focus and piece of work to keep me sane during lockdown, but also fulfilled my aim of becoming a purpose-led business.

What is your opinion on the carbon labelling of menus and food products in the hospitality industry?

I think every industry needs to do its part in saving the planet. Carbon labels could play a role in empowering consumers to make informed choices about the food they consume and the services they support. By providing transparency on the environmental impact of menu items, consumers can align their preferences with their values, influencing the hospitality industry to adopt more sustainable practices.

When armed with information about the carbon footprint of various dishes, consumers can actively choose options that align with their environmental goals. This creates a demand for sustainable products, encouraging restaurants and food producers to prioritise eco-friendly practices. As consumers vote with their wallets for greener choices, the hospitality industry is incentivised to adopt and promote more sustainable practices in their operations. However there are pitfalls which I detail below.

Last year leading food service technology provider, Nutritics, and hospitality data and insights consultancy CGA by NIQ released the report Sustainability Matters: What consumers want and how brands can win. It is obvious in its findings that sustainability remains a key priority for UK consumers when eating out.

Karl Chessell, Director, Hospitality Operators and Food, EMEA at CGA, added “It’s important to focus on the positives in sustainability. Pubs, bars and restaurants that show good practice can improve brand trust and increase guest spend. Good sustainability practice isn’t just the ethical thing to do, it’s commercially valuable too.”

Have you found this to be true in your business?

We have definitely found promoting our sustainability practices to be commercially valuable. We have had customers based in London booking our venue for weddings and corporate events just because we are a B Corp. We’ve had people enquire about jobs at the farm just because we are a B Corp. B Corp sends out a symbol of trust and authenticity which consumers and potential employees are looking for.

There is an opinion that putting into place practices like carbon labels will empower consumers to make informed choices about the food and services they support, influencing the industry to adopt more sustainable practices.

Do you agree with this?

When I go to trade exhibitions, I actively now look for B Corp Certified suppliers and those who are actively demonstrating their sustainability credentials, and this influences my purchasing decisions.  I think in the future, with the rise of Gen Z consumers, they are actively putting sustainability as a key decision-making criteria, so the hospitality industry will need to adopt a more sustainable stance in order to remain competitive.

Where can you see there being potential pitfalls or loopholes with carbon labels?

Who will work out the carbon label?  Carbon labelling will require intricate calculations that consider every stage of the supply chain. This could act as a barrier. A lack of standardised methods for calculating carbon footprints could lead to inconsistencies and potential confusion for customers.

Carbon labelling may require investment in data collection, software and staff training. Small hospitality business are already under pressure and this next step may be too much for some. How and what support will be provided for companies to create the carbon label and how do we know how accurate it will be?

If you compare putting the calorific and nutritional values on food like some larger hospitality outlets have been required to do, does that truly make you choose the food or do people just want to enjoy what they want to eat without the guilt?  Too much information on menus can overwhelm consumers, leading to decision fatigue.

There is a risk of greenwashing if businesses are tempted to exaggerate or misrepresent their sustainability efforts which could happen without clear industry standards or regulation.

Finally – what part of your business do you believe is the most attractive sustainable aspect that draws interest?

Firstly. A wind turbine powers my venue so people can see we are sustainable as the turbine towers above the venue.  Secondly, the B Corp Certification and the fact that The Wellbeing Farm is one of just a small handful of hospitality businesses that have achieved B Corp Certification.

Carbon labels and regulated sustainability claims can be a catalyst for positive change, encouraging restaurants to adopt eco-conscious measures, from sourcing locally to reducing waste, ultimately contributing to a more environmentally conscious and responsible hospitality sector.

Celia Gaze, CEO & Founder, The Wellbeing Farm

thewellbeingfarm.co.uk

The future of food labelling

These are the questions we’ll be tackling during our next panel debate on 31st January 2024. We’ll be talking to industry experts from across the food and beverage industry on what to expect, and how businesses big and small can get ready for carbon labelling. Keen to know more? Sign up now. Or read our latest blog, Goodbye Greenwashing, Hello Carbon Labelling