Food Made Good CEO Heidi Spurrell on Her Mission and a More Sustainable Future
Food Made Good CEO Heidi Spurrell talks to us about the organisation’s mission to create a network that can help restaurants and the community build a more sustainable future.
According to Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department, most of the territory’s food waste is currently disposed of in landfills. In 2019, around 1,957 tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) were produced daily. In the past few years, the MSW from commercial and industrial sources, including hotels and restaurants, has also drastically increased. Overall, the alarming carbon footprint caused by restaurants is related not only to wastage, but to many other factors, including food production, preparation, transportation and supply chains. Food Made Good HK, a sustainability consultancy founded in 2019, is trying to tackle these issues by providing a set of accessible resources for food-service businesses.
Although a grim scenario might seem unavoidable, Heidi Spurrell, the organisation’s CEO in Hong Kong, says that a few simple steps could go a very long way. Here, she talks about her mission, challenges and the unexpected monetary benefits of a green revolution.
In Conversation with Heidi Spurrell of Food Made Good
How was Food Made Good brought to Hong Kong?
I set up Food Made Good HK to support local food businesses that are looking to become more sustainable. The programme was launched globally in 2019 and I took the opportunity to open an office here. We now also have offices in Japan and Greece, with affiliates dotted around the world. I’m excited to announce that Food Made Good HK is Hong Kong’s first dedicated food sustainability organisation to become a B Corp [a certification of social and environmental performance]. We’re now the city’s go-to food sustainability consultancy – and receiving B Corp accreditation last month enhances our credibility and confirms we really are walking the walk.
What’s your mission?
To help the food-service sector operate as sustainably as possible, and ultimately scale this up to create a genuinely more sustainable food system. Increasingly, we’re not only working with the food-service sector, but also with corporations to educate their teams and inspire change – and with food retailers too, to help them formulate achievable goals. The appetite for change is certainly there.
Usually, we begin by auditing a restaurant’s sustainability performance, applying our framework of Society, Sourcing, and Environment. We then provide guidance and recommend practical measures they can implement. We also run monthly events to keep people engaged. And, of course, we host our awards ceremony every year, where we celebrate those restaurants and local heroes championing sustainability and making a difference.
What are the main obstacles you’ve faced in Hong Kong?
We started out during the political unrest and endured through Covid, so it hasn’t been an easy start. However, we see genuine interest from businesses wanting to begin their sustainability journey. What we offer is credible sustainability knowledge-sharing and a platform offering accessible and practical guidance that encourages people to participate – so we’re optimistic.
There’ve been many obstacles. For example, finding good sustainability talent has been tricky, and we’ve had to really dig for localised knowledge when adapting our toolkits for Hong Kong, since we don’t have a lot of data here as you might have in other places in the world. Elevating plant-based eating is also a crucial shift to enable sustainable diets, but in Hong Kong there are real cultural barriers.
Lastly, viable sustainability solutions are being held back by a lack of enabling infrastructure, such as a regular and reliable glass-recycling service.
Tell us about your background.
My interest in food sustainability really blossomed around seven years ago when I was studying for a master’s degree in food policy. It was then that I became more aware of our interconnected food system and the complex challenges we face. When I first started working in food and sustainability, it was a relatively niche field. However, the world is rapidly waking up to the importance of food and its environmental impact – and sustainability has moved to centre stage.
How is Hong Kong doing when it comes to sustainable practices in the F&B industry?
Progress is certainly being made with more and more restaurants and food-service companies putting sustainability at the heart of their business model. Consumers, especially those in the younger age group, are becoming more environmentally aware and are actively seeking plant-based menus and restaurants that practise sustainability. This in turn encourages more restaurants to go green. Of course, there’s still an enormous amount to do to make our food culture more eco-friendly.
Being sustainable is often perceived as an overwhelming and expensive process for restaurants. What is Food Made Good doing in this respect?
Sustainability doesn’t necessarily have to be costly or complicated. It starts with having the right strategy and breaking things down into simple, manageable components. We regularly advise restaurants on small changes that can have a big impact on their environmental footprint. Bringing in an external consultant can be a good way to kick-start change. Going green can even be good for business. For example, one of our restaurants recently installed a high-end water-filtration system that produces refreshing still and sparkling water, eliminating all the expense and effort of importing single-use bottles. The rewards have been amazing, with the system paying for itself in just one month.
Is the future of the F&B industry connected to sustainable practices?
Absolutely. Food production is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions with more than half those emissions caused by conventional livestock farming. As consumers become increasingly aware of climate change, environmental issues and the social damage of exploitative trading practices, they’ll demand more sustainable food. Food waste and recycling are important topics when it comes to working towards a more sustainable future. What are some urgent and necessary steps in this regard?Currently around 30 percent of all garbage going into Hong Kong landfills is food waste. This can be dramatically reduced in food businesses by simple measures such as reducing portion sizes and better ordering and storage. The Hong Kong government’s recent waste-charging legislation is a step in the right direction. There’s also an urgent need to reduce plastic packaging and disposable cutlery.
Source: Prestige Online