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August 19, 2008
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UK venues ignore advice on local food sourcing




Only a fifth of hotels and venues with corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies are buying more than half of their food from local sources, according to a recent survey.

The research, by Conference Care, which is used to create the event company’s Venue Sustainability Rating, includes feedback from more than 700 venues and hotels, including chain and independent properties from the UK capital to the countryside.

Even though 74% of venues now have a CSR policy, the survey has highlighted some issues set to raise eyebrows among the most ardent of TV chefs.

Despite encouragement to buy locally, it is apparent that many hoteliers and venues are ignoring the advice. Of the sample that did have a policy, only 22% of venues purchased more than half of their food from local sources, while a worrying 65% of hotels and venues were using unsustainable food produce.

On a positive note, 47% of participating hotels and venues do purchase organic produce and 77% use at least some Fairtrade products.

“It's great to see, according to the poll, that 47% of hotels and venues are now buying some organic food,” said Soil Association commercial director James Twine. “However, we would like to see more commitment to sustainable buying practices across the whole menu, with greater volumes of organic food bought more consistently rather then occasional purchases of one or two lines.

“Hotels have significant buying power which they could use to not only please their customers' taste buds and attract potential clients, but also to care for the environment and support their local and organic food producers and processors.”

Conference Care launched the Venue Sustainability Rating to meet the corporate clients demand for a standard sustainability measurement across the UK’s conference and meeting venues. Criteria measured ranges from recycling and waste, to energy and efficiency, and venues’ contribution to the local community.

“The corporate market is increasingly purchasing its meeting and event venues based on CSR and sustainability, as well as price,” said Conference Care director Chris Peacock. “We are often asked by our clients about food miles and it is clear that these messages aren’t being addressed.

“The UK’s restaurant industry has taken this subject to heart, but many hotels and venues are still focused on gross profit. Clearly there is huge potential for venues and groups to address their food offering and win business through having policies that meet with the corporates demands.”


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