Pizza Hut's progress on carbon footprinting - Steve Packer shares all
Q. Two years ago, we asked what you thought of the future of casual dining. How do you think this has evolved since 2018?
Trading conditions have moved on from 2 years ago. Currently, for example, the impacts of the coronavirus show how susceptible the sector is to big changes.
But generally, it’s been exciting to see technology within restaurants changing, and the customer journey changing with it - for example online payments, improved customer relationship management and restaurant aggregators like third-party delivery services. This will be the next big evolutionary challenge (and opportunity) for the sector.
Sustainability is on everyone’s minds, and public consciousness has changed drastically over the last couple of years. Customers are starting to be more aware and to ask more questions, and Pizza Hut Restaurants is proud to have started its sustainability journey and to be doing the right thing. However, the impact of sustainability is still something that is difficult to measure in terms of return on investment. For the moment, we are talking more about sustainability to our customers, and we are getting more feedback from them.
Q. We recently worked with you to do a carbon footprint analysis of your whole value chain. What was Pizza Hut Restaurants’ motivation for conducting this exercise and what did you learn?
Consumer interest is growing, but our main motivation comes from our leadership team. We want to be a good business, not only for our customers, but also because we are conscious about our impact.
Pizza Hut Restaurants also wants to demonstrate it is a thought leader; by talking openly about our challenges and how we overcame them, we can support companies that are not as far along in their sustainability journeys. We have a responsibility to help others in the sector to achieve the world’s climate ambitions.
Going through a full carbon footprinting exercise has been a great way to validate our hypotheses. We knew that food was a big part of our overall footprint, with cheese playing a major role within that. And now, we are justified by data to start working with our biggest suppliers and their dairy farmers to improve practices.
Although our business’s impact through food was not a surprise, we hadn’t considered the impact of employee commuting and customers travelling to and from our restaurants. The carbon footprint analysis showed us how impactful this can be, and the importance of not just focusing on what happens within the supply chain and the four walls of your restaurants. This is now a good opportunity to start thinking about whose responsibility it is and what can be done to mitigate these impacts.
Q. How critical do you think it is for the casual dining sector to look seriously at their emissions and set reduction targets?
As a significant contributor to carbon emissions, the casual dining sector must understand its impact if we are to help governments achieve our carbon targets.
Setting emission reduction targets is the logical next step; if you are only measuring your impact, but not doing anything to mitigate it, then the exercise is pointless. While it’s not always easy to know what your targets should look like, the climate emergency means everyone should be reducing as much as they possibly can to limit global warming to 1.5ºC. Pizza Hut Restaurants has therefore set an ambitious target to be carbon neutral by 2030.
Currently, we do not know how we will achieve this, and it is likely that we will require some offsetting. However, companies must be careful to change their behaviour first, before offsetting what they cannot reasonably mitigate. Pizza Hut Restaurants is currently working on setting a gross emissions target, to further reduce our operational and value chain emissions.
Q. What would be your one piece of advice to businesses doing the same thing?
Before embarking on a target-setting exercise it’s important to understand where you are starting from. In order to do this, you need to find other organisations that can support you through that complicated process.
It is also important to keep asking questions from experts like Bioregional and sector leaders. You should make sure you weigh different types of opinions and points of view though as the advice in the food industry can, at times, seem conflicting. Don’t always accept the first piece of advice that you are given and do not make decisions too quickly. Maintain a healthy level of cynicism and look at evidence based on science.
Companies on this journey should also be aware of potential trade-offs or unintended consequences, for example meat-free products may have different nutritional values to meat products. At times, by pulling one lever to improve something, you can accidentally increase your impact in other areas of importance.
Q. What will be Pizza Hut’s next steps to reduce your emissions?
It is important for us to focus on aspects where we will have the biggest impact and can drive the biggest changes.
We've already made great strides in reducing energy consumption through the use of new smart meters, LED lighting, better building management systems etc; and reducing food waste in the kitchen by educating our colleagues and investing in tools to measure our waste. Our next steps will include furthering our commitment to reducing food waste with food redistribution in the community and focusing on ways to encourage customers to reduce plate waste.
We are also looking at increasing the availability of plant-based ingredients and options on our menu, where it is the right thing to do in terms of nutrition and environmental impact.
I talked earlier about offsetting, and we know this will need to be part of the solution at some stage. We’re researching credible schemes so we can invest in the right area and with schemes that have proven results.
Lastly, we want to work more closely with our suppliers and producers. This is perhaps the most important and the most difficult part of our future journey. We want to take the learning and best practice from our own journey to reduce our carbon footprint and discuss this with suppliers and farmers to make sure they’re doing as much as they can too.
For this, we will need to understand how they operate and what their footprints are. Early in 2020, we started engaging with our dairy suppliers and farmers, and we were happy to see that they are ready to engage and think about things like monitoring and measuring emissions from their cheese production in order to improve. What is encouraging us is that our suppliers and farmers also supply other companies, so any effort to reduce emissions will go beyond Pizza Hut Restaurants.
While we feel we have less control over other important parts of our footprint like employee commuting and customer travel, we’re still examining ways to address it. In the meantime, we are thinking about encouraging more flexible working for colleagues in our main offices.
Read about how Bioregional helps companies reduce their carbon footprint