The sustainability impact of restaurants has been saved
The sustainability impact of restaurants
How RIJKS and Wils are leading the way
RIJKS and Wils are one Michelin star restaurants based in Amsterdam. Having an intrinsic motivation to understand their footprint and be proactive in terms of their sustainability choices, they have collaborated with Deloitte and PRé Sustainability to assess their environmental impacts using Deloitte's Strategic Impact Assessment framework (SIA).
One man’s ambition
Joris Bijdendijk is well known as a double-Michelin-starred restauranteur at RIJKS and Wils, promoter of Low Countries cuisine, and author of his own cookbooks. His passion for great cooking and focus on the provenance of ingredients sets a lead for other gastronomes to follow. What’s perhaps less well known is that Joris also champions sustainability, and the impact the food industry has on the environment.
With his restaurants, he started a journey towards becoming more sustainable. He had adopted principles such as the origin and seasonality of ingredients, looking to reduce waste, using entire animals and less popular cuts of meat. But he felt something evidential was missing in this approach. The executive decisions he was making were well intentioned and felt right, but he was lacking the scientific data to back up his gut feeling. Through the Low Food Movement, with its symposia, thought leadership and chef’s academy – it was confirmed that understanding the impact of the choices restauranteurs make in terms of ingredients, suppliers, infrastructure, staffing and utilities requires more investigation, analysis and expertise than was currently available. A deeper dive into the science was needed.
To get to the heart of the matter, Joris approached Deloitte – having seen the firm’s Net-Positive Future of Food report, and knowing of its role as the initiator of the Net Positive Network. This network is bringing together over 40 key players from the Dutch food ecosystem to reduce the environmental impact of food production and consumption and develop innovative solutions by working together. Both being part of this network resulted in an evolving partnership between Deloitte and Low Food to use the Michelin-starred RIJKS and Wils restaurants in Amsterdam as case studies for what sustainability markers could be measured in the full cycle of an operating restaurant, and to ignite interest across the entire food sector to follow suit, and accelerate the change required towards a net positive food economy.
Deloitte had a suitable framework for this exercise in its Strategic Impact Assessment to select, prioritise and manage sustainability impacts. That framework was then tailored to the specific steps along the chain of events in every aspect of the restaurant process. The partnership also involved the life-cycle expertise of PRé Sustainability, and looked to assess the environmental impact of the two restaurants during 2022.
Over 6,000 ingredients within eight key categories of meat, seafood, other protein, fruit, vegetable, dairy, carbohydrate, oil and miscellaneous were examined for impact. Environmentally, it was important that the study looked beyond carbon so, in addition to CO2 emissions, other air emissions were also taken into account – as was land use, water consumption and water pollution.
Each environmental impact was quantified in monetary terms, to achieve some equivalence in the results. Those results were used to compare the impact between restaurants, and also to express the environmental cost per diner visit. The key challenges in conducting the exercise were the paucity of data available, the lack of reliable and comparable metrics in monetary terms, and the inherent complexities within the food supply chains.
To date, the exercise has yielded hugely valuable information on the operational management of the two restaurants. Perhaps the most surprising finding was the far deeper environmental impact due to the other air emissions associated with the ingredients – particularly beef,pork and butter – than that of carbon emissions. Interestingly, water consumption was highest in non-animal derived ingredient use. Those findings confirmed some of the initial assumptions, but also highlighted other hotspots to be considered for future decision-making.
The goal is to retain the culinary quality of the restaurant experience, but to experiment with the means to achieve that experience by making more scientifically informed, and sustainable, choices. For instance, substituting a proportion of butter with rapeseed oil for a given dish can have great cumulative impact, with little effect on the gastronomic experience for any diner.
More importantly, the exercise has shown that with greater collaboration across the sector – and with thought, effort, application and some robust methodologies – any food production and preparation practice could be subjected to a similar structured review process as the basis for making better, impact conscious, business decisions.
This initiative has started with leading influencers on the Amsterdam food scene, but the real changes will need to happen with major food production processes, incentivising farmers to change their working practices (the price premium sustainable foodstuffs can command being one such incentive), and ultimately the reshaping of consumer preferences towards making sustainable choices part of everyday thinking about food.
Download the full report to reveal the full richness of the insights provided by the Strategic Impact Assessments of RIJKS and Wils. For further information on any of the themes raised in this article, contact us via the contact details below.
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