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Sustainability Initiatives Key To Attracting And Retaining Hospitality Staff

Better sustainability credentials and communication could hold the key for hospitality operators to attract staff, reduce turnover and ultimately increase retention, according to a report from leading food service technology provider, Nutritics, and hospitality data and insights consultancy CGA by NIQ.

The report, Sustainability Matters: What teams want and how brands can win, surveyed UK hospitality employees to understand their perspectives on a range of sustainability issues, and found that an operator’s environmental credentials can have a massive impact on their ability to recruit and retain talent.

The report makes it abundantly clear that sustainability really does matter to hospitality workers. More than nine in ten (94%) hospitality professionals say living an environmentally friendly and sustainable lifestyle is important to them, notably more than the 70% of consumers who say they actively try to lead an environmentally friendly lifestyle.

While a competitive salary, recognition and job satisfaction are typically key motivators for employees to consider staying in a role, almost all employees surveyed (94%) say that a company’s commitment to social and environmental responsibility is a significant factor when deciding where to work. What’s more, half (50%) have accepted one job over another partly because the company was more sustainable.

Sustainability is also crucial to retention, with 84% of hospitality professionals saying they would be more likely to stay in their job for longer if their employer has, and continues to create a positive environmental impact. With operators looking to reduce costs wherever possible, better environmental practice could help reduce recruitment costs significantly.

Commenting on the findings, Stephen Nolan, CEO of Nutritics, said: “Staff are crucial to any brand’s engagement on this urgent challenge. They are the people who will ultimately deliver sustainability strategies. They are also highly stimulated by environmental issues, and younger workers in particular are much more likely to be attracted to employers who share their concerns. As we show in this report, good sustainability practice can be a very powerful recruitment and retention tool.”

In addition to identifying employee attitudes, the report also provides operators with potential answers and solutions.

Employees want to work in an environment that reflects their own ethics and values. However, with so many potential areas of focus, it can be difficult for operators to know where to start. The report seeks to point businesses in the right direction, by asking hospitality workers what they feel are the most important subjects to tackle. Recycling, reducing food waste and sustainable packaging (91%) emerged as the top priorities, so better stock planning and menu management, making recycling facilities easy and visible, cutting the use of plastic and identifying recyclable alternatives are all ways in which an employer can demonstrate their responsibility.

There is also a real enthusiasm for staff training and education (87%), a welcome sign that frontline teams want to be part of the sustainability journey. Plenty of online or in-venue training packages are available, including Knowledge Labs by Nutritics, to help staff understand more about Net Zero and cutting carbon footprints. 85% want to work with sustainable suppliers, while 84% favour local or sustainably sourced ingredients, showing the opportunity for buyers to work with suppliers and demonstrate responsible sourcing and labelling, both on menus and back-of-house.

An encouraging 82% of hospitality employees see their workplace as a sustainable and environmentally friendly venue, however, only a quarter (27%) think their workplace is proactive in reducing waste and energy and prioritising ethical sourcing. This ‘action gap’ is a common theme, showing that there is currently a gulf between what staff think is important, and what actually happens in practice.

For example, while 82% of team members think that links with community sustainability initiatives are important, only 21% observe them at their business – a huge gap of 61 percentage points. On other issues like providing access to environmentally friendly transport, using local and sustainably sourced ingredients and staff training and education, the number of staff who see action is less than half those who think they are important. More positively, the gap between importance and action on recycling is just nine percentage points, and it’s relatively narrow on food waste reduction too. But these figures are conclusive proof that team members are not seeing nearly enough progress on the sustainability issues they care about.

Stephen Nolan concluded: “There’s a lot more for operators to do, but what’s clear is that they have real opportunities to engage their people and go on this sustainability journey together. Staff are willing helpers on the mission to make hospitality more sustainable – they’re personally committed and grasp consumers’ concerns, so giving them the freedom to suggest and deliver initiatives can accelerate meaningful change.

“Two-way communication with teams on sustainability issues is important, but the businesses who can help educate them as well will be the ones who really notice a step-change in engagement, recruitment and retention.”

Sustainability Matters: What teams want and how brands can win, is available to download at, alongside a sister report, Sustainability Matters: What consumers want and how brands can win. Together, the reports deliver an exclusive and holistic analysis of the issue of sustainability across the hospitality sector.