Systemising sustainability: How rivals are collaborating to cut carbon

Creative Commons: Marco Verch

The Hospitality Carbon Reduction Forum is putting best practice around energy and sustainability on the menu, with rival pub, restaurant and coffee chains collaborating to drive down consumption, cut waste and improve their bottom lines.

Chapman also founded the Hospitality Carbon Reduction Forum, where pubs, quick-service restaurants and coffee chains share best practice around energy and sustainability.

Mark Chapman: Life’s too short – and too expensive – to make your own mistakes

The Energyst attended the last forum in May, hosted by pubco Young’s. Perhaps most striking was members’ willingness to collaborate, given many compete directly for share of wallet.

“They don’t see this as a competitive area, they’re keen to share and learn,” says Chapman. “Life’s too short to make your own mistakes – and too expensive.”

All 40 forum members collaborate on an energy efficiency benchmarking project each year, and are currently collectively resourcing a plastics initiative. The aim is to create a best practice action plan on minimising single use plastics in the sector – with the specifics of how to do it. That’s key to the forum, says Chapman, “it is actions-based; implementable actions that can be taken to the board, rather than a talking shop.”


Chapman says the forum has been running for the best part of a decade but that momentum around sustainability has increased markedly over the past 12-18 months.

“We’re seeing increasing adoption [of energy and sustainability measures] in the hospitality sector driven by reputational risk, financial and internal stakeholder pressure,” says Chapman.

He says CSR and environmental reporting requirements are also boosting board-level interest. “Companies have to have a story around this – if nothing else, they have to implement actions or risk having nothing to put in the director’s annual report.”

That is partially why Chapman thinks Esos will be different second time around, but there are some other fundamental reasons.

“Firstly, you have to tell people more than once to do something, that’s human nature,” he says. Secondly, there is Brexit and its associated economic torpor.

“It’s difficult for all businesses to grow their topline, so everyone is focusing on taking out cost.”

Specifics, not boilerplate

Esos phase one was regarded by many as a missed opportunity, a tick box exercise that delivered little outcome.

Chapman thinks it was too generic, with “boilerplate findings insufficiently actionable for most companies”.

Tailoring Esos to specific sectors increases the likelihood of businesses implementing recommendations, says Chapman, which is the approach Carbon Statement takes.

“Before Esos, we were doing energy audits anyway – benchmarking [clients’] energy efficiency in the sector and its implications for profitability,” says Chapman. “That meant we could show people energy cost per pound of turnover comparisons against their competitors and highlight, for example, that they are losing 2 per cent on margin.”

Putting energy into financial metrics tends to sharpen board engagement, says Chapman, and placing margin-boosting solutions in front of them improves the chances of action. The carbon aspect is also increasingly important, Chapman reiterates.

“We show them how much more carbon they are emitting than their competitors. Combine those two messages – finance and sustainability – and it hits all of the stakeholders in the business, because if the public becomes aware they are emitting twice as much carbon as their competitor, and they have not done anything about it, that becomes brand damaging.”

Take ownership

Carbon Statement uses its custom energy and analytics platform combined with engagement programmes to reduce energy use, says Chapman. Using that approach, he says hospitality companies have saved 30 per cent of energy consumption via non-capex projects. “That equates to £4,000-£5,000 in additional profit per outlet,” says Chapman.

Engaging all stakeholders is critical, he says. “If it is uncoordinated, it leads to uncontrolled energy use. So we try to create structures that engage all internal stakeholders – property, maintenance, operations, finance and marketing.”

Equally, he says systems, not one-off exercises, breed success. “It has to be an ongoing process in the same way that health and safety, sales or customer services are ongoing business processes.”

The first step is to establish an owner, says Chapman. “That doesn’t mean they have to do everything, but they are the project lead. It could be the FD, the ops director; it could be health and safety. It doesn’t matter, as long as somebody takes ownership.”

Smarter approach

Using energy data from smart meters is another cornerstone to driving down consumption. Because smart meters are widely deployed across industry, Chapman says there is no need for additional kit.

“That’s the key starting point. If you are not doing anything with your smart meter data, it’s a massive waste.”

Chapman says the analytics system uses smart meter data to highlight areas requiring attention and send weekly reports with “actionable insights on how to improve, and what it will cost if they don’t,” says Chapman.

That approach means “everybody has a template, an action plan, so they are not floundering around,” says Chapman. “So if you are a pub operator, here’s the plan and here’s how you execute,” he says. “Then you can quickly embed sustainability within your business – and improve margin to boot.”

If you would like further information about the Hospitality Carbon Reduction Forum, contact

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