"Your menu is the largest contributor to your environmental footprint."

Water and energy-saving equipment, less taps running, and plastic straws being ditched. These are all great and necessary initiatives according to Jérôme Pagnier, Co-founder of WiseFins and hospitality and food industry expert, but not nearly enough if you’re working on reducing your environmental footprint.

– The single most important factor to consider if you want to become more sustainable is the food you serve on your menu, says Jérôme, when Granuldisk calls him for a digital chat about sustainability.

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Meet sustainability expert Jérôme Pagnier

If you were ever to meet sustainability expert Jérôme Pagnier you would probably not forget it. A person more passionate about sustainability within the food and hospitality industry is hard to find. He has a long experience in hospitality and international luxury groups, and his latest employment, before starting his own business, was at the Grand Hyatt in Singapore, working as Director of Food and Beverage. A role and a place where he felt he could make a great impact when it came to sustainability matters. Although, eventually he felt he wanted to do much more for a wider, global audience, have a greater impact. So, he packed his things, moved to Europe, and started his own company, WiseFins.

– Every day when I take my morning shower, I think to myself “today, I’m going change the world!”. That thought makes all the difference, both to me as a person, but also for our clients. I will do a much better job when I truly believe I can make a difference.

Why do you claim that menus are the single largest contributor to a hospitality company’s environmental footprint?

– It is quite simple to explain. According to statistics from the Institute for European Environmental Policy, the global food system is responsible for up to 37% of all greenhouse emissions. That is a fact most people aren’t familiar with. Neither chefs nor top management or customers. Instead, companies tend to focus on energy and water savings in their daily business but forget, or are unaware of, the fact that the food they serve actually has the largest impact on their company’s overall environmental footprint.


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So how can companies make their menus more sustainable?

– Your first thought is probably that you would need to buy more locally produced food, right? This is great, but the harsh reality is that transportation only accounts for 6% of the total greenhouse gas emissions produced by the food system. Instead, agriculture and growing account for most of the emissions. Let me give you some examples, did you know that livestock production for meat consumption is responsible for at minimum 14.5% of the world’s anthropogenic (human-related) greenhouse gas emissions, or that you need around 158.000 liters of water to grow 1-kilo almonds? Or let us take chocolate as another example. In France, each person has an average consumption of 7 kilos a year. That takes around 64.000 liters of water to produce. This amount is equivalent to a year of drinking water for 88 people. Multiply that with all 65 million people living in France and the amount of water used for chocolate is 4.160.000.000.000 liters. So, what we serve on the plates does matter.

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Full article about almonds’ environmental impact here

Full article about almonds’ environmental impact here

What should companies serve their customers according to you?

– If you swop a regular animal and meat-based meal to a plant-based you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 70%. So, reducing meat and animal products on your menu is the biggest and easiest step you can take. And unless what some people seem to think the dishes do not have to be boring just because they are plant-based. I worked at a large event where we only served plant-based alternatives to over 350 people, most didn’t even realize, and only two or three of them asked why there was no meat being served. Good food is just good food, whether or not there is meat in it.


What other actions could be taken when it comes to the menus?

– Well it is not easy for restaurants to know what to serve and what not to serve. The main reason is that there is no real transparency in the food industry. The real change will come with labeling so customers can easily understand what impact the food they buy has on the planet. No food is carbon neutral or negative, but there can be large disparities. Spinach, kale, leafy greens, and various types of beans are some examples of food restaurants can add to their menus to reduce their emissions. For example, the carbon footprint of 1kg of red beans is 0,42kg CO2 through its life cycle and its water footprint is only 150 liters. If you compare that to lamb, its carbon footprint per kg is tremendous with 49,6kg CO2 (or 486km in a plane) and its water footprint is also staggering with 12,000 liters (or 1,800 toilet flushes). Truth be told, companies wouldn’t only reduce their environmental footprint with these changes but would also reduce their food cost in the process, so it is a win-win.


Are there any other big no-noes when it comes to serving food?

– Skip the buffets at all costs. They are a thing of the past with a lot of unnecessary waste at the end of each day. Around 30% of the food prepared for a buffet ends up in the garbage which is such a waste.

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What does sustainability mean to you?

– Environment and social responsibility, economic growth. They can all go hand in hand. Because caring for the environment is not a burden on the financial success of a company. Long term it will make all the difference for both the planet and your company. There is no doubt in my mind that, as a company, you either move towards sustainability or you will inevitably become irrelevant. That is what all studies and trends are pointing towards, says Jérôme and continues:

– A study in France shows that 94% of people between 18 and 35 want to know the environmental impact of what’s being served on their plates. And this is in southern Europe where people are generally more traditional. To me, it simply shows that a new generation of millennials/ GenZ demands more transparency and more sustainability efforts from companies. This is the generation having kids right now, what do you think they will teach them. These values are here to stay. Adding to this, governments all over the world have woken up and started working on this topic. Singapore, the Netherlands, and Scandinavian countries are among those leading the way.


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Which is the easiest way for a restaurant to start their sustainability work?

– Investing in energy, water, and chemical-saving equipment like pot washers from Granuldisk is great. But if you don’t put sustainability at the core of the company it will simply not happen. Sustainability KPIs should weigh as heavy as the financial KPIs on the weighing scale. So, it must start with the top management, if not you will just get isolated and ineffective initiatives like getting rid of the plastic straws or the odd investment in a piece of equipment. At the same time, we need to remember that everything must start somewhere, and a company cannot change overnight. But the decision to change must be purposeful and conscious to be successful.

How is your company supporting restaurants with their sustainability initiatives?

– We started as consultants helping a wide range of customers within the food industry to become more sustainable. Now we’ve broadened our offer. In September, we are launching a software solution that helps food industry professionals measure and reduce their environmental footprint while optimizing their financial performance. It will also help them with consumer-driven communication tools; for example, they will be able to provide receipts that will display the environmental footprint of the customer’s purchase. We believe this tool will be launched at the right time. The world is ready and hungry for a better and more transparent food system.

For more information about WiseFins, visit: https://wisefins.com/


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