The first Go Green Business Breakfast saw 50 attendees from a wide range of businesses come to River Cottage Canteen on Whiteladies Road to discuss sustainable sourcing and purchasing.
The wonderful hosts at River Cottage Canteen certainly raised expectations for future breakfasts with their very popular bacon rolls – people said that they were the best they’d ever had! (The mushroom tortilla vegetarian option was also delicious.) We enjoyed Fairtrade tea and coffee in the beautiful converted church turned restaurant on Whiteladies road before taking our seats upstairs for the presentations.
Over 80 businesses have now created their action plan on the Go Green website and created a bespoke sustainability report for their businesses, pointing out ways they can be more sustainable across five key pillars. Have you created your action plan yet?
Sustainability expert, Christine Storry from Not Far From The Tree Ltd gave a useful overview of sustainable sourcing, with great tips on how to best manage the process, and what to consider in key areas that affect the majority of businesses, such as refreshments, stationary and printing.
Attendees also heard a case study from Ben Bulger, the Executive Chef from River Cottage who heads up their sustainable procurement. Ben talked us through the diverse range of efforts that River Cottage makes to ensure it maintains its integrity around its sustainable sourcing policies.
The Go Green action plan is a free tool available to every type of business in the West of England, small or large and in all sectors – including those who already consider themselves to be sustainable. You can upload evidence to demonstrate your progress, and we are sure you will find inspiration and ideas for actions in areas you have not yet considered. Business Breakfast attendees certainly seemed to go away with a renewed sense of purpose and dedication to work through their plan, having been inspired by Christine and Ben’s talks and top tips.
If you were unable to attend, the key messages are outlined below. Additionally if you would like to share your own tips on an element of sustainable sourcing get in touch to suggest a blog post, or fill in the online form to submit a case study.
"Ask yourself, what can we do better? Focus on getting the little things right first"
Key things to ask before buying stationary
- Do you really need it?
- Develop a core list that you know meets your sustainability requirements so no one can order anything else from the catalogue.
- Next day delivery is not necessary for stationary items, and suppliers may say you have free delivery but it is included in the price and causes unnecessary vehicle emissions. If you stop using next day delivery you could discuss with suppliers a reduction in their prices.
Top tips for managing sustainable sourcing
- Who is the designated person responsible for over-seeing sustainable sourcing?
- Prevent sustainable sourcing procedures falling apart when a champion leaves by ensuring decision makers are driving it from the top as well as implementers on the ground.
- To prevent risks to reputation do your supplier checks properly and stick to your guns about the sustainability choices you want to make.
- Promote your sustainable sourcing efforts so as to not lose out to supplying other organisations who are looking to demonstrate their own sustainability ethos.
Key things to consider about printers and photocopiers
- Whole life costings
- Buying or leasing with the ability to upgrade
- How you will recycle mobile phones, tablets and laptops at end of use?
- Go back 2 or 3 steps and think about what’s behind the things you are buying? For example, where do all the rare earth metals come from that are in your electrical appliances?
- Consider e-invoicing instead of paper invoicing. Every paper transaction can cost around £75 in hidden staff time costs, so changing to e-invoicing could save money as well as paper and printing resources.
Benefits of sustainable sourcing
- Cost savings
- Staff retention because more staff want to work for organisations with a sustainability ethos, so you’ll have a better pick of people
- Enhanced reputation
- Bristol City Council looking for suppliers that match with what they are trying to achieve in Green Capital Year
- Making a positive contribution to the environment and society
Make use of social media to source small producers; they can be hard to find because they can’t afford huge marketing campaigns
Sustainable Sourcing at River Cottage Canteen
Environment is very important, especially at Park Farm HQ which has the ideal situation with organic veg, and livestock, biomass boiler, reed-beds, and carcasses they can butcher on the site to ensure good animal welfare. They try and take the values from the farm to the city. Ben shared some of their techniques:
- The Whiteladies road site was empty for two years and brought back to life when turned into the River Cottage Canteen with reclaimed wood and furniture
- Building uses low energy light bulbs to AAA rated fridges and heat regeneration in the dishwashers
- Green chemicals are used for cleaning
- Zero waste to landfill by sending food waste to be composted instead
- Looking into reducing washing up by cooking without pans and using induction, not gas, to reduce the heat produced in the kitchen and therefore reduce the need to run a powerful extraction system and reduce energy costs
- Promoting higher welfare meat and organic veg
- Use of Fairtrade tea and coffee
- Work with small producers who only slaughter a small number of animals per week, and develop menus that use the animals from nose to tail to get the full value of the animal for the farmer and reduce waste
- Have developed pockets of meat suppliers in the West Country to supply the four restaurants in the area. They work together to use the whole animal across the four restaurants. Working closely with suppliers enables River Cottage Canteen to know the details of the breed, what is was fed on and how old it was
- Use of Sunseed Organics and Bristol’s own ‘The Severn Project’ for salad leaves and they also source English beans from Suffolk farmers.
- Working with meat suppliers to find uses for products that usually go to waste after slaughter, to put a value on it and use in restaurants
- Provide courses at their HQ to educate the public on sustainability, and River Cottage apprentices are encouraged to to be sustainable young chefs
- Currently looking at the scalability of small farmers, to help them grow with the restaurants in a sustainable way and not to put pressure on them.
Ben’s Top Tips
- Organic is not always a benchmark of quality, small producers often cannot afford accreditation and farmers do not promote themselves as organic because they are already doing things properly to high welfare standards
- Dealing with risk – if small suppliers have a flood and cannot get a delivery to them in time, or the wrong fish is landed that day, River Cottage are happy to work around these constraints. River Cottage want to keep their sustainability integrity and they think far ahead to manage dealing with multiple small suppliers
- Open communication with suppliers is vital
- Their biggest challenge is transparency . The supply chain must be constantly monitored and reviewed, and one cannot just assume that ‘everything is going fine’. It’s important to constantly check your supply chain is transparent.
Join us at the next Go Green event
Like the sound of this event? We run lots of green business events in the Bristol region! Head to our events page to see what’s coming up.