How about energy?
Louisa: We suggest switching to renewable energy and to reduce the amount of energy by understanding what causes your consumption. Often you can work with your energy provider who can segment the areas of your operation and work out the parts which use the most amount – is it the kitchen, the fridges?
And how about guests: Can you involve them? We know that bars are hideaways. You don’t want to stress guests with environmental issues, I guess.
Louisa: I agree, no one wants to bombarded with sustainability information on a Friday night, ready to relax (laughs). Often it is about options: There will always be some customers that are more interested in sustainability. So how do you have the information there for people that want to make purchasing decisions, based on whether your business is working on sustainability or not? How do you communicate about the achievements you have made and also things you’re still haven’t quite worked out yet? It’s a journey and no bar will never have completed sustainability. So, having that on your website, on social media, on the back page of your cocktail menu if you have one is a good idea.
Moreover, there will always be certain aspects of sustainability that resonate more with you as a business and your team. Maybe you’re particularly passionate about the fact they are not using any fresh garnish any more, or someone really cares about community and the social influences of what they do. So, choose the things that really resonate with your brand and your employees, those are the things you are most comfortable speaking about.
In restaurants, one crucial aspect of sustainability is about curating food suppliers. Same in bars?
Louisa: It is really important to understand the credentials of the suppliers on your back bar by simply pulling out questions: We want to know more about the sustainability projects you are working on. Can you please tell us these facts, so that we can train up our team? A lot of your sustainability footprint will be held in those suppliers that are on your back bar because a lot of them are working on really amazing things.
Bartenders are at the front line of selling drinks to customers. That’s an opportunity point since when a customer seems interested in sustainability or doesn’t know exactly which drink he wants, that’s the point to influence the purchasing habit based on the sustainability information that you now about the suppliers.
When sourcing that sustainability information from suppliers, how can one avoid bias or greenwashing?
Louisa: I would say something to always look out for is third-party certifications. Are they working with other partners within the industry to validate or verify the things they are talking about? So, with things like fair trade, you know there is another level of evidence checking going on. At SRA, we know that the main motivation for most of the pubs and bars to work with us is to have a third party verify their initiative through our rating. It provides a level of reassuring to their customers.
In general: What should spirit brands from your perspective do to become more sustainable?
Louisa: Spirits are food, basically. Their wheat, corn etc. is grown in the same way up until processing. A lot of sustainability I am seeing in the beverage brands is around production, transportation, manufacture or packaging. But around 70 percent of most food product’s carbon footprint is located before it even leaves the farm gate. So how can we ensure that alcohol brands are doing things in the agricultural space, that the ingredient are being grown through forward-thinking, regenerative agricultural practices? It will become more and more mandatory that we are doing organic practices.
Bars are going through difficult times as we all know because of the Covid situation. How can they pursue sustainability under these circumstances as they all have to look after their budget?
Louisa: A sustainable business is only possible if you’re financially sustainable, too. Certain things in making change will cost a little bit more money. But a lot is about simplifying and about efficiency. Take the example of citrus and food waste: We often call citrus the meat of the bar industry. Much of it is wasted. It travels from the other side of the world, often through no certification or standards. It requires a lot of pollution and pesticides. We would suggest that one sources citrus through standards like fair trade, and often business will say: That is more expensive. So it’s about asking yourself: How do we reduce, make operations more efficient? What drinks really, really need citrus? If you can half the amount of citrus because you simplify it to those the things that really add flavor, then you have the capital to invest into procurement that has sustainability standards in it. It is the same with straws: Do you really need them? The most sustainable and cheapest option is the one you did not buy. Our mouth has worked very well for millennia without it.
Louisa, thank you very much.