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Collaboration drives success

Spirit Pub Company was an early adopter of breaking the traditional waste management model by unlocking its supply chain capability, launching an easy-to-use recycle model for all pubs and employees to maximise recycling.

This single project made a massive difference to the group’s ever-increasing waste costs and raised the subject of waste to board level.

The business has now started to develop solutions to look at the prevention of waste creation. This could be by implementing reusable media into the supply chain, reviewing food pack sizes, shelf life, portion control, menu cycle changes or looking at innovative solutions by using waste, such as its ultra biofuel vehicle trials.

Reducing waste is important to all of Spirit’s key stakeholders, whether it be the guest, investor or team. With its pubs at the heart of local neighbourhoods, it is important to the company that it strives to minimise its impact on the environment.

It recently started to use social media to deliver key messages to employees, and this has shown that the majority of its 17,000 staff in 780 pubs understand the importance of reducing waste and care about the difference they are making. The company made a couple of key decisions to maintain momentum and ensure that recycling levels do not slip by creating brand ‘league tables’ to encourage competition, benchmarking and also a credit scheme that rewards pubs in their profit and loss statement.

Community Spirit

While it is important to understand the end-to- end business case of waste reduction programmes, it is also difficult, which puts some people off from implementing them. The actual costs of waste are often hidden, and are potentially a small part of larger cost lines across various stakeholders. So a business has to go hunting for them and people are sometimes not keen for stones to be lifted.

Tackling waste can have a significant effect as a cost reduction project, but businesses should not underestimate the fact that guests and employees of the future are becoming more interested in waste when making the ‘destination of choice’ decision in a very crowded market. I find the waste and recycling sector is still fragmented and suffering from a lack of investment. For example, getting accurate data can be near impossible, and traditional commercial models still do not encourage or embrace true collaboration and so fail to create win-win situations across the supply chain.

Spirit has created Community Spirit, an initiative which is supported by chef and ambassador Cyrus Todiwala OBE, with the aim of removing the ‘corporate’ out of corporate social responsibility and encouraging all staff to feel part of the social responsibility journey. They are able to make a difference by reducing their own impact on the local environment and, most importantly, improving the profit and loss reports of their pubs.

The business is expanding the commodities that pubs can recycle via a reverse recycling solution to include electrical items, so it has had to look at the supply chain in detail. For example, it has made further changes to vehicles to expand their capacity and make the ‘final mile’ of delivery as easy as possible for drivers and pubs to ensure that its extended services do not have an adverse effect on the core business of delivering food, drink and goods not for resale.

Spirit is starting to trial ways of creating more local recycling solutions and linking them to communities. It will be looking at expanding the use of pub gardens and car parks by using food waste compost linked to gardening contracts. Here, it hopes to expand its traditional hanging basket options and, in premium pubs, to develop herb gardens. The company also operates the biggest soft play brand, Wacky Warehouse, and its plans are to show the sustainability journey via storyboards and use its gardens as part of this educational journey. It is early days but the initial feedback is excellent.

The Spirit team is focused on driving collaboration, reuse and reducing lifecycle costs with suppliers, which is becoming an integral part of its purchasing and supply chain success.

Vance Fairman-Smith is head of supply chain and purchasing at Spirit Pub Company. He will be taking part in a panel session at Waste-Works, the waste and resource event for the food and drink industry, at the ExCeL Centre, London, from 22-25 March.

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