It’s no surprise that sustainability and ethics are valued strongly by Irish consumers. The world is waking up to the importance of reducing our impact on the environment. Unfortunately, the journey of food to our plates can be a complicated one, and sometimes it can be difficult to know what to look for.
What is meant by “sourcing” in the food industry?
The ingredients for your favourite dishes have to come from somewhere before they get to your plate. While many might be available in your country or even locally, other more exotic, out-of-season ingredients rely on globalised supply chains and imports. Sourcing is the selection of where these ingredients come from. That decision is dependent on numerous factors not limited to affordability, availability and sustainability.
Responsible sourcing places ethics front and centre when it comes to selecting suppliers for produce. It means buying from environmentally and socially ethical sources that minimise the impact they have on the world.
Responsible sourcing through the supply chain
Responsible sourcing starts at the very beginning; from the farming, gathering, and harvesting of produce. If the produce you’re looking for is available locally then responsible sourcing isn’t difficult, but it can be more of an issue with exotic or out-of-season ingredients. Relying on global imports for certain products means they have to be shipped much further, leading to increased carbon emissions. By using local, seasonal produce, you minimise your environmental impact not just in the form of food miles but also in your emissions. That said, when you do have to source produce abroad, fair trade must be kept in mind, considering aspects like working conditions and worker pay when selecting suppliers. This ensures you avoid worker exploitation, which continues to be a big problem as developing countries typically offer cheaper labour to cater to the growing demands of developed markets.
At Fooditude we value our relationships with family-owned businesses and sustainable suppliers that help us ensure we continue to source as responsibly as possible. In fact, thanks to Keelings, we know the name of every fruit and veg farmer that supplies our kitchen in Dublin. All within a 45km radius! We’re even able to visit our farmers and see our produce grow from seed to harvest! In our Dublin kitchen we also work with Origin Green-certified suppliers, the only national food and drink sustainability programme in the world that unites the whole supply chain.
The produce itself should also be considered. For example, beef and palm oil are huge drivers of deforestation. We equally see widespread impacts of overfishing, not only in the damage to wild ecosystems but also in plummeting numbers of wild fish species. Sustainable sourcing practices should seek to avoid regions where these impacts are most keenly felt. Vegan and vegetarian alternatives are thus becoming increasingly important. Our menus for example, are currently 60% vegan and 80% vegetarian. Check out our most recent menu below! You can even see who our suppliers are and subsequent carbon footprint level for each of our sourced ingredients. For example, our recent Sharazi salad included cucumbers sourced from Well Grow and Rush, both of which have a low carbon footprint!
Responsible sourcing doesn’t stop there. We also have to acknowledge the impact the processing and packaging of produce can have on the environment. So, opting for biodegradable packaging and zero-emissions practices throughout the supply chain is just as important to building an ethical and sustainable supply line. For example, to help us be sustainable throughout our value chain, we carefully calculate what ingredients we need to ensure we don’t overproduce, eliminating the potential for excess food waste. But as is the nature of catering, food waste is inevitable, so in our Dublin kitchen we ensure that all our food waste is collected by Thortons, preventing any waste from reaching landfill.
Responsible sourcing is clearly important to consider, and this snapshot into responsible sourcing in the food industry presents a multifaceted starting point for companies to keep in mind when hiring a caterer.
Why do companies need to ensure that their partners adhere to responsible sourcing strategies?
- Builds a positive reputation around the company: Who we give our business to speaks volumes about our values. As sustainability and ethics continue to drive business, those who fall short will lose partners and customers as a result.
- Boost staff morale: Just as customers hold businesses to a higher standard, so do their employees. A company that chooses to make ethical, sustainable decisions will make its employees prouder for working for them.
- Builds better relationships with suppliers: By working together to establish higher standards, businesses and suppliers can help make trade fairer for everyone.
- Mitigates legal risk: Companies who find themselves entangled in scandals surrounding environmental disasters or labour exploitation will not find ignorance a good defence in court. More and more businesses with questionable practices are finding themselves receiving hefty fines, or worse, for their disregard for ethical and sustainable business practices.
- Minimises risk to the environment: The world we live in is the only one we have so it makes sense to look after it. Businesses can do terrible damage to our planet if not held responsible.
- Quality of final output: A supplier code that puts people and the environment first lets the world do business with peace of mind. Establishing industry standards and a code of conduct for sourcing programs means both businesses and customers know what to expect and can be held to account. While certain technological advances in intensive farming have produced a higher yield to meet increasing demands, this can often come at a cost to the final product.
How can you trust that we responsibly source?
You can trust our certifications. We just received our 2022 Food Made Good rating by the Sustainable Restaurant Association, once again achieving the best rating: three stars. Not only have we committed to a net zero emissions policy by 2045, but since being accredited with Planet Mark we have already reduced our carbon emissions by 31.1% per meal! That said, our approach to responsible sourcing is based on continuous improvement: we strive to be more responsible and sustainable every day.