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How Can Small Food Businesses Help Promote Food Sustainability?

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Saturday 16th October 2021 is World Food Day. Yes, a day to celebrate the beautiful thing that fills our minds, days and of course stomachs. But, more specifically, World Food Day is an international annual celebration to commemorate the date of the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation in 1945.

This year we’re focusing on food sustainability and specifically how small food businesses can help promote this. So, how can they? This is a complex question because some might wonder why it’s the responsibility of SMEs to promote this when bigger businesses often don’t. But this is where SMEs can be one step ahead – in fact, 81% of people prefer to buy from sustainable sellers.

But why is food sustainability so important? Well, where do we begin? Overconsumption and wastage are rife and having a devastating effect on the environment. Food sustainability can help reduce overconsumption and wastage by producing food at a productivity level that is enough to maintain the human population.

Food sustainability also involves making changes to our diets. The agricultural industry is one of the largest causes of climate change. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation found that meat and dairy make up 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth.

Small food businesses can therefore help promote food sustainability by ensuring they have a range of meat-free and vegan options available. The international campaign Meat Free Monday is an easy way for them to do so. Another campaign, Veg Cities, aims to increase the availability and consumption of vegetables and reduce food waste. Sustain is an organisation promoting food sustainability by running projects and campaigns to improve a better system of food, farming and fishing. Their projects and campaign can be found here.

Aside from environmental impact, food sustainability is important in terms of profit – particularly for small businesses – and health. It doesn’t only involve looking after our planet, but our bodies too. We want to produce food that makes up a nutritious and sustainable diet, keeping us healthier for longer. This can be achieved by a global shift toward more plant-based foods, according to the 2019 EAT-Lancet Commission. Sustainable eating also involves growing your own food, shopping locally and eating seasonally. If small businesses lead by example by showing they practice food sustainability it is likely to encourage others to do so too – both individuals and bigger businesses.

Furthermore, reducing overconsumption and wastage maximises profit, as food waste causes a significant loss. This is particularly important for SMEs, as maximising profit is essential in keeping them running and they don’t have the money to be making such large losses due to food waste. An individual restaurant loses 4% of sales value on wasted food, throwing away about half a pound of food for every meal. For small businesses, this would be extremely detrimental for their profit margins; thus, they must implement strategies to keep food waste to a minimum.

These strategies involve keeping track of what they’re selling each day so that stock can be managed and ordered accordingly – for example, sales on a Monday will differ from those on a Saturday. A lot of businesses use day dot stickers, which are stuck on all food and drink items to highlight their use by dates. This ensures stock is managed appropriately and used for as long as possible.

It is inevitable that in most cases not all food or drink items will be sold by their use by dates. In this case, they can be given to staff, as more often than not they will still be good quality for consumption, but can’t be sold due to laws surrounding use by dates. Additionally, if there is a surplus of food or drink, for example an accidental order or it is not selling, this could be donated to food banks, homeless shelters or charities in the local community.

Overall, there are a number of things small food businesses can do to help promote food sustainability, including limiting wastage, shopping locally and offering vegetarian or vegan alternatives. It is important that a small food business does as much as they can to be sustainable, as this is often recognised by the wider public and therefore enables them to lead by example. By incorporating each of these things into the DNA of the business, it becomes a habit and encourages others businesses and individuals to do the same.

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