SFM Conference Focuses on Sustainability

By Lindsey Ramsey, Contributing Editor

SFM environmental conferenceOne of the most important steps to achieving
sustainability waste goals is to first track both pre-and-post consumer
waste, according to several presenters at the “Exploring
Sustainability,” Society for Foodservice Management’s 7th annual
Critical Issues conference held at the Colgate Palmolive building in New York City.
This advice, and much more, was part of the conference’s examination of
sustainability as it relates to foodservice.

Waste Not: Andrew Shakman, president and CEO of LeanPath, a sustainability consulting company, was the conference’s biggest proponent of tracking waste. In his presentation, Shakman spoke about the importance of tracking pre-consumer waste in order to identify opportunities for reducing it. He emphasized that without tracking, operators can’t know how big the problem is, and therefore can’t manage it effectively.

“If we can’t express what we know in the form of numbers, we really don’t know much about it,” Shakman said, regarding why tracking waste is important. “If we don’t know much about it, we can’t control it. If we can’t control it, we are at the mercy of chance. We can manage the things we can measure. Could we imagine not counting our cash?”

Shakman said he felt tracking pre-consumer waste was more beneficial than just tracking post-consumer waste because pre-consumer is the waste that is under the operation’s control. Shakman said that anywhere from 4% to 15% of food waste is pre-consumer and, in most cases, could be reduced or eliminated. Tracking an operation’s waste is the best way to identify where operational changes need to be made.

Shakman said he sees waste, especially pre-consumer, as an indicator of inefficiency. He recommended operators look at it as a “resource in disguise.” Shakman also warned operators to be on the lookout for the seven deadly wastes: waste from overproduction; waste of waiting time; waste of transportation; waste in processing; waste in inventory; waste of motion; and waste from product defects. He also recommended sharing the responsibility for waste management with all employees, especially back-of-the-house staff, so everyone becomes invested in reducing pre-consumer waste.

Shakman said there is new tracking technology that uses input terminals, reporting software and scales to record times/dates, food types, weight and estimated disposal, reasons for disposal and source of waste, be it catering or retail. The technology can give operators insight into data they can’t get anywhere else such as the amount of spoilage and the amount of trim waste by specific foods. Shakman says the technology can help raise employee awareness by providing this data as representative of all an operation’s pre-consumer waste.

Several other speakers at the conference spoke about the importance of tracking waste as a step to reducing it. As part of his steps for setting up an organics recycling program, Michael Manna, senior partner from Recycling Resources, recommended conducting a waste audit to determine the amount of organic waste as opposed to other trash and recyclables. Manna also advocated for operators to prepare a cost benefit analysis, along with a waste audit, before implementing any recycling program.

He said that the cost benefit analysis could help operators determine if they have any neighboring operations that could share an organics/food waste recycling route or collection shed with them. Manna said he believes that the tracking of waste shouldn’t stop once the recycling program has begun. Instead, he stressed the importance of continual monitoring to make sure the program is producing the operation’s desired results of cost savings and waste reduction.

Operator’s Opinion: Jerome Bill, director of international sporting events for Aramark, who is currently preparing the foodservice for the Beijing Olympics, gave an operator’s perspective on waste management. He too emphasized the importance of tracking an operation’s waste as the best way to improve waste management. He focused on how to evaluate an operation’s waste, suggesting that operators should look at measuring weight by type as well as measuring volume by type to determine sample bin and container methods. Evaluating an operation’s inventory’s packaging, looking at the recyclable material, multiple layers of packaging and reusable products is also an effective way to understand the source of waste. Similarly, he recommended evaluating cleaning products and chemicals to see how they fit into an operation’s waste-reducing goals.

The talk of tracking waste—as a necessary first step of implementing sustainability goals for an operation—fit into the conference’s larger discussions about the importance of transparency in business practices. Arlin Wasserman, vice president for Corporate Citizenship for Sodexo, spoke about how corporate responsibility plays into customers perception of an operation’s sustainability.

“People connect to sustainability personally and initially through their food choices,” Wasserman said. “The responsibility to make the right choice increasingly falls to foodservice professionals.”