When most people think of sustainable business practices, fast food and hamburgers don’t usually spring to mind.
Today, more people are eating out and what they buy is often based on a heightened awareness of sustainability and ethics.
For example, last year Deloitte found that one in three millennials make regular payments to a charity – and 40 percent said they had participated in volunteer work over the past year.
That was more than any other generation over the time period.
Deloitte also found 60 percent were on the lookout for “sustainably sourced” products while at the supermarket.
Whichever way you slice it, more people are socially conscious and environmentally conscious.
So, hospitality businesses that can prove their sustainability chops are well-positioned to thrive.
One outfit that is taking the fast-food sustainability plunge is 4 Ounces Burger Co, where environmental sustainability meets old-school hip-hop beats.
Their buns are baked by a social enterprise, while their meat is prepared by an ethical butcher.
The chef behind 4 Ounces Burger Co, Rory Donnelly, told The Pulse his drive to create a sustainable business was about more than saving the planet, one burger at a time.
“From my experience working in the hospitality since the age of 18, I’ve seen a lot of things that clearly weren’t sustainable,” said Donnelly.
“Not just from an environmental perspective, but also in terms of other things like the quality of life for restaurant staff.”
But retrofitting sustainability into a business is tough – that’s why 4 Ounces Burger Co was conceived as a business where sustainability was planned from the “ground up”.
“I feel most businesses’ primary objective lies in generating profits,” he said.
“We’ve taken a bottom-up approach, which allows us to focus on delivering an experience the customer wants without having to compromise our values.”
For example, 4 Ounces no longer sells bottled wine because the process of bottling wine is particularly energy-intensive.
“Fifty percent of energy expenditure in the wine industry lies in the bottling process, so getting rid of wine bottles is actually more efficient for wine producers.
“In this sense, waste management thinking starts to dictate what products we’re selling and that’s something that’s constantly evolving.”
In creating a business with sustainability at its heart, Donnelly has done the hard yards – here’s what you can think about to make your business more sustainable.
It may mean budgeting for a little more in your initial outlay. But fitting out your operation with energy-efficient lighting and appliances reduces your carbon footprint and can also save you money in the long term.
Many products carry energy-efficiency ratings but it can be difficult to understand exactly what they mean, and they may differ from region to region.
If you want to know more about how to purchase the most efficient products for your business, go to the Department of Environment and Energy website in Australia, or the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Agency website in New Zealand.
Donnelly’s operations have been cashless since inception and he says this has a variety of benefits.
“Some of it’s cost-driven, but it’s also because we want to keep more staff on the books and pay them well. The other part’s the tax part; we want to be seen as a trustworthy business by the ATO and by our customers”.
As recent events in the hospitality industry have shown, it’s very easy to see how cutting a few corners when it comes to payroll can end up in a tidal wave of negative sentiment.
Donnelly wanted to create a business that pays staff an honest wage for a reasonable amount of labour.
“This meant we’ve had to hire more staff because we don’t want anyone working beyond 40 hours a week. Operators should be aware of the impact hiring more staff may have on the way their business is classified,” said Donnelly.
Being an ethical business owner is all well and good, but you can’t expect to do it all on your own. Donnelly says working closely with suppliers and other partners can help set you on the right track.
“We’ve just signed a deal with Envirobank to collect and recycle all of our glass and aluminium. I hope someday all our customers are returning their takeaway packaging to us for recycling,” he said.
Packaging is one way that Donnelly is trying to promote a zero-waste ethos, but it doesn’t end there. Marketing materials are another way in which operators might consider cutting down.
“Letterbox drops are a complete waste of resources,” said Donnelly.
“Why would I spend the money and time dropping off thousands of pamphlets if I can get the same result on social media?”
“It’s important to have a vision to begin with and believe in it and to communicate it to customers,” said Donnelly.
“In the hospitality business, we’re there to provide a service and the customer is paying for that service.
“Of course, you’re going to see a lot of upstarts, copycats and competitors who will come and go, but the brands that stand the test of time are the ones that stay true to their ethics and their values.”