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Rising footfall brings more waste

As businesses grow it is important that corporate social responsibility (CSR) objectives do as well.

Echoing the growth of a company with ever more ambitious CSR targets is a vital step in planning business expansion, and will ensure that the environmental impact of the organisation continues to remain positive.

In the hospitality and catering sectors, growth raises new challenges for companies such as Whitbread – owner of brands such as Premier Inn, Costa Coffee and Beefeater Grill – which has a strong CSR agenda to maintain.

With more footfall in hotels, it is important that energy and water use and waste produced are monitored and that measures are implemented to reduce this where possible. In Whitbread’s restaurant businesses and coffee shops, the increase in customers, while positive for the business, also has the potential to create more food waste, with more packaging and takeaway trays having to be disposed of responsibly.

Across all the company’s businesses, ambitious targets have been set for 2020 as part of its CSR strategy, known as ‘Good Together’, from a commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, to creating a more positive impact in its local communities. It has committed to a number of goals regarding waste and recycling – by 2020, Whitbread plans to increase the direct operations’ recycling rate to 80%. Already, it is on track to achieving this goal.

By the end of 2014-15, 84% of its sites’ operational waste was being diverted from landfill, with the head office and Roastery sites diverting 100% of their waste. Although there is still work to be done to cut the amount of waste produced in the first place, these figures are a positive step.

To achieve any goal it is vital that a strong strategy is in place to support and guide committed team members. Companies looking to implement their own ambitious CSR and waste targets must consider the actions required to meet those targets, and ensure that the strategy is supported at every point.

Around £5m each year will be spent by Whitbread on managing its waste better through segregated waste streams and improvements to recycling.

Working with its partner Veolia Environmental Services, it has implemented a four-stream waste collection service in hotels and restaurants. This uses colour-coded bins for mixed recycling, food waste, glass and general waste – and making the process simple for teams has helped to engage everyone. People can now see that simple measures make a real difference to the waste the business produces, which in turn has a positive effect on its community and the environment.

Food waste is currently a prominent subject of discussion across the retail, catering and hospitality sectors. Many organisations are considering charitable partnerships to ensure that surplus food is put to good use, while others are looking to recycle unused food to cut waste. All of the food waste that Whitbread produces in its restaurants is sent for anaerobic digestion, ensuring that the produce receives a new life.

With natural resources becoming increasingly scarce across the globe, it is vital that businesses take the lead in creating a sustainable future. Whitbread’s 2020 waste targets are a step towards this common goal and its strategy will ensure that it meets, or even exceeds, every one of the ambitious aims it has set itself.   

James Pitcher is CSR director at Whitbread    

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