The biggest challenge operators face when implementing sustainable solutions at their restaurants is understanding where to begin and translating that into a return on investment, a senior executive and sustainability champion at Starbucks Coffee Co. said.
Clarice Turner, the coffeehouse chain’s senior vice president of U.S. business and immediate past chairman of the National Restaurant Association’s sustainability committee, said the benefits of being sustainable are real in terms of achieving savings and efficiencies. It also meets and satisfies customer and employee expectations regarding environmental consciousness.
Turner says sustainability can be achieved no matter a company's size.
Turner noted that cost savings related to sustainability can be achieved no matter a company’s size. The comprehensive approach Starbucks takes to reducing its environmental impact looks at all aspects of the business and how they intersect, she said. This helps the company achieve greater operational efficiencies.
“Being sustainable can help save on operating costs,” she said. “We have demonstrated that in various tests throughout the country. Return on investment can manifest itself in many ways. For instance, at Starbucks, we pioneered recycling efforts in the front of our restaurants and know we’ve saved thousands of dollars a year just in trash hauling alone.”
Turner said practicing sustainability is both financially and environmentally rewarding.
“The advantages are many,” she said. “One, it’s the right thing to do. And two, it puts a halo on your brand, your business, which is very real to both consumers and employees. If done right, it has a tangible, bottom line, a positive impact in terms of year-over-year costs.”
Turner also noted that operating sustainably is especially relevant among Millennials.
“Many of our customers and employees are millennials and they care deeply about sustainability,” she said. “Not only does it impact their purchasing decisions, but also their satisfaction. At Starbucks, 80 percent of our workforce is made up of millennials. Not only is this important to them intrinsically ‑ in terms of their value set ‑ it also drives their purchase behavior, which is important to everyone’s bottom line.”
In addition to practicing sustainability, she also advised operators to be aware of and get involved in sustainability-related legislation and regulation.
“Right now, there’s a lot of legislation out there,” she said. “It’s well intended, but very complicated and it’s making it difficult to comply.”
Quoting a fellow NRA board member, Turner noted that when it comes to legislation, “either you are at the table or you are on the plate.”
“It’s very important that we have a proactive stance and that the NRA and the industry, in particular, are being seen as [leaders] in this area.”
Visit the National Restaurant Association's Conserve program and learn more about practicing sustainability at your business operation.