Road to net zero: a guide for hospitality businesses


As world leaders gather in Glasgow for the UN Climate Summit to discuss the threat of climate change, the spotlight is on our commitment to net zero.

Governments, businesses and civil society all have a part to play in reducing our impact on the planet by reducing carbon emissions. But what does that mean exactly? And how can you implement changes in your business?

Read on to find out why sustainability is important for your small business, and how the hospitality roadmap can help you take action towards reducing your carbon footprint.

What is net zero?

Research from the British Chambers of Commerce earlier this year found that one in five businesses don’t understand the term ‘net zero’, so let’s start with a definition.

While reducing zero carbon emissions would be impossible, ‘net zero’ is about removing enough emissions to balance what we produce. For example, by planting trees or using renewable energy.

This is important because, in 2019, the UK became the first major economy to put its commitment to net zero by 2050 into law. With small businesses making up 99 per cent of the UK’s businesses, the government is encouraging all businesses to take action and reduce their carbon footprint.

A net zero roadmap for the hospitality industry

The hospitality roadmap to net zero was launched on 19 October by the Zero Carbon Forum ahead of the climate conference.

It outlines current trends, sector emissions hotspots, decarbonisation opportunities and practical steps for setting net zero goals.

Recognising the power of innovation, the report calls on hospitality businesses to consider how they can “influence diner behaviour, decarbonise menus, drive out food waste, adopt a zero emissions logistics solution that takes food from farm to fork, and drive improvements in agriculture so food production becomes lower carbon and more sustainable.”

Why build a net zero strategy into your business?

While it can seem a complex and overwhelming task, there are benefits for all businesses in making sustainability a central part of your business.

  • positive brand reputation – having a plan for how you will approach net zero, one step at a time, will help you stay ahead of your competitors
  • customer expectations – customers are increasingly looking for businesses that are taking action to reduce their environmental impact

UK Hospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “Many hospitality businesses have already shown great commitment to reducing their carbon footprint and have been at the forefront of carbon reduction strategies.

“However, there’s been a clear step change in political and public opinion, that requires the sector to move faster and further in order to secure the future of the sector, wider economy and country.”

Practical ways to meet net zero goals

The hospitality roadmap details seven key areas to focus on when looking for areas to reduce and remove carbon emissions for your business:

  • strategy and data
  • buildings
  • renewable energy
  • sourcing – food and beverage
  • sourcing – other
  • transport
  • carbon removals

Within the roadmap, there are examples of quick wins (that are easier and more affordable to introduce) and strategic longer-term investments.

Short term goals could include reviewing your menu to support low carbon food options and encouraging customers to use public transport, walk, or cycle when visiting.

It also details more ambitious measures such as upgrading to energy efficient appliances, improving insulation in your building, or using 100 per cent renewable electricity.

In essence, it’s about thinking how you can reduce materials and waste, and working with suppliers to build a long-term sustainability strategy that’s achievable for your business.

To find out more and show your commitment, you can join the Zero Carbon Forum.

Are you considering a net zero plan for your small business? Let us know in the comments.

Photograph 1: Mavo Images/stock.adobe.com

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Catriona Smith

Catriona Smith is a content and marketing professional with 12 years’ experience across the financial services, higher education, and insurance sectors. She’s also a trained NCTJ Gold Standard journalist. As a Senior Copywriter at Simply Business, Catriona has in-depth knowledge of small business concerns and specialises in tax, marketing, and business operations. Catriona lives in the seaside city of Brighton where she’s also a freelance yoga teacher.

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