Sustainable Restaurants Association
What are the aims of the SRA?
The SRA aims to make UK restaurants global leaders in sustainability by helping them to source more responsibly, minimise their impact on the environment and engage with their communities.
Please tell us a little about the SRA
The Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) is a national not-for-profit membership association, providing restaurants with advice and support to help them navigate the whole spectrum of sustainability issues. As well as membership, the SRA rewards and celebrates restaurants who are leading the field with a 'sustainability rating' based on an independent accreditation covering all the different aspects of the restaurant’s operations.
The SRA also highlights issues such as declining fish stocks, food waste and animal welfare through consumer campaigns designed to engage the public and encourage them to make more sustainable choices whether dining out or in.
How is a Sustainable Restaurant defined?
We define sustainable restaurants as restaurants that are making an active commitment to being more sustainable, by addressing issues and activities that fall into our 14 areas of sustainability. These sustainability criteria fit into three categories;
- SOURCING - Local & Seasonal, Environmentally Positive Farming, Ethical Meat & Dairy, Sustainable Fish, Fair Trade
- ENVIRONMENT - Supply Chain, Energy Efficiency, Water Saving, Waste Management, Workplace Resources
- SOCIETY - Healthy Eating, Community Engagement, Treating People Fairly, Responsible Marketing
How do Restaurants become a member of SRA?
We want to help as many restaurants as possible be more sustainable, so we've tried to keep our Membership Terms and Conditions and Membership Fees simple – and flexible enough to cater for independent restaurants and chains. In exchange we offer a wide range of exclusive Membership Benefits.
Restaurant Members need to commit to at least three Key Actions from our Charter of Actions, one from each of our three sustainability categories: Sourcing, Environment and Society. These should be new actions taken by the restaurant to deliver these commitments. The three Key Actions are formalised in a Pledge in order to receive an SRA "We’re at the table" Membership certificate which can be displayed in qualifying restaurants, along with a Sustainable Restaurant Association Member Window Sticker and logo. To renew annual membership, restaurants commit to three additional Key Actions each.
Restaurants (members and non-members too) can also undergo our comprehensive Accreditation process to review their sustainability across all areas of the business. Accredited restaurants receive a report detailing how they have scored, highlighting the areas in which they’re excelling and those that need improvement and those that have scored outstandingly are awarded Sustainability Champion status.
We encourage all participating restaurants to work towards the highest SRA award of ‘Three-Star Sustainability Champion.
Additionally, restaurants are invited to embrace and operate according to our Values, which emphasise commitment to:
- doing business in a manner that manages social and environmental impacts just as well as financial ones; and
- become increasingly sustainable across a business, no matter what the starting-point recognising that sustainability is an ongoing process.
What is your/their broad area of expertise?
We specialise in helping restaurants operate more sustainably – in all senses of the word – environmentally, socially and regarding the sourcing of food and relationships with suppliers. The way we work is that we find the topic experts and bring that expertise together all in one place to make it easier for restaurants to find the information, and act on it. Our major partner and advisors are Sustain.
What aspect of your work with relevance to the food-climate change issue would you like to feature?
We work to help improve restaurants’ sustainability across the breadth of their business, including encouraging wider consideration of agricultural and freighting emissions in sourcing food, increased energy efficiency within restaurants, reduction of kitchen and plate waste and diversion of waste from land fill. We also raise consumer awareness of the impacts of the restaurant industry on the environment, emissions being a part of this, and support our members in responding to consumer demand for more conscientious business practice. As our membership continues to grow we believe we will start to have real impacts on industry emissions and waste figures and we look forward to championing UK restaurants as global leaders in sustainability.
What is the driving force behind the SRA?
The SRA was set up by Giles Gibbons (CEO and Founder, Good Business), Mark Sainsbury (Founder, Moro, The Zetter Hotel and the Zetter Townhouse), Henry Dimbleby (Founder, Leon) and Simon Heppner (Sustainability Director, Good Business). They knew that a growing number of restaurants wanted to improve their sustainable performance. They also found that customers wanted more sustainable action from their eating establishments.
What wasn’t immediately obvious was where restaurants could go to get all the sustainability information they needed, from under one roof. Sustainability is about long-term success but it’s a complicated subject and until now, there’s been no industry body to provide the consistent guidance and support that restaurants need.
Like-minded customers also needed a way to locate restaurants that were serious about sustainability. The Sustainable Restaurant Association was set up in response to all these issues and it launched in March 2010.
The SRA has now operated for one year, and we have 600 members, including fine dining establishments such as The Cinnamon Club, chains such as Carluccio’s and Leon, and independent restaurants such as Due South in Brighton and Cafe St Honore in Edinburgh.
What do you see as the big questions for the food climate research community at the moment?
We consider that some of the significant challenges are around communicating the complex and interdependent issues of sustainability. Notably, we think it is important to address key questions:
- How to make the information accessible and relevant;
- How to engage people to take action and change established patterns and habits, without over simplifying, or risking scaremongering;
- How to decide on and then promote solutions that will address the problems and appeal to a wider audience;
- How to keep the issues at the top of the right people’s minds when there are so many other issues competing for attention; and, of course
What are the big questions you feel you are seeking to answer at the moment?
The SRA is trying to move an entire industry sector forward, towards sustainability. Eating out in a restaurant is a treat and it should be fun. Increasingly, diners want to make similar ethical choices when doing this to the ones they make at home and we are here, through our rating/accreditation scheme, to help them to do that. It is a complex area and, quite often, there is no "right" answer - but we help restaurants to consider the impact of the decisions they make, and give consumers the chance to make informed choices about where they spend their money.
Our big issue is how to keep sustainability on the agenda for small businesses like restaurants which are, not surprisingly, preoccupied with keeping the business running and making ends meet. We’re trying to demonstrate the link between operating efficiently, reducing costs and being more sustainable to counteract the commonly-held myth that a sustainable approach costs more. Getting sustainability on the agenda is important in the restaurant sector, and keeping it there is our challenge.
Is there any expertise you feel you lack and would you welcome help/collaboration with others?
All of the sustainability issues we address are complex, and best practice advice changes as the body of knowledge and research grows and as the situation changes. The more up-to-date and relevant information we have, the better advice we will be able to give our members. The link between food and climate change is such an important issue and is poorly understood by many in the restaurant sector. This is an area on which we’d love more expert guidance, both in terms of the latest thinking and research, as well as the best ways for restaurants to respond.
What are your plans for the immediate future as regards this work?
Our current priorities are to recruit more members, to keep improving our support to members and to track and promote their achievements via case studies and lastly to encourage more of our members to undergo our Audit and get accredited. As we only launched in March 2010, we’re still fine tuning our membership services and establishing ourselves as the key industry body on sustainability – we’re getting there! We’re also working on strengthening our links with our sustainability partners – such as Sustain.
We have just launched a partnership with Training for Life to get more of our member restaurants to take on apprentices. We’ve also recently carried out a piece of research on food waste in our member restaurants, and we’re working on turning that into a consumer and restaurant campaign to reduce food waste when eating out.
What are the milestones might we look out for?
We have just passed our first birthday! Later this year we will be launching a campaign – Too Good To Waste – based on the results of our food waste survey, encouraging both restaurants and diners to do more to reduce the amount of food that is thrown away.
What are the insights you can offer to the rest of the research world on food and climate change?
The longer we work with the restaurant industry, the more data, case studies, experience and insight we gather. We have done some research already covering topics such as consumer attitudes to sustainability and eating out, and looking into the amounts and types of food waste produced by restaurants. We’re keen to do more along these lines and to work with partners to ensure the ongoing credibility and validity of our work.
We are based in Soho, London – nestled between two Chinese restaurants in Chinatown.
Please contact us on 020 7479 4224