One thing that I have learnt in the green industry is to not judge a book by its cover – not to make any assumptions about how “green” or not anybody is. You simply have no idea until you have sat down and engaged with that person and listened to the full story. Nobody has the moratorium on sustainability and we all need to learn from each other.
Let’s listen to the journey of one of our proudly South African institutions, Spur Steak Ranches (bearing in mind this is only the beginning of their journey).
I chatted to Joe Stead (Environmental Sustainability Gatekeeper of Spur Steak Ranches, pictured below) to get an overview of their green journey to date. We believe this is very important to share, as other restaurants can learn from this. I soon realised that they were further down the line than I had expected. So this is the start of a series on their green path.
Spur started dabbling in sustainability in 2008, when their head office went on the Western Cape government’s Smart Living Training. The staff started asking questions like ‘what is our sustainability policy?’ At the same time, customers started asking questions about their use of disposable packaging.
“So, we bravely set out on doing baseline auditing of some of our stores. When we got the feedback we realised that this was not going to be a simple process and that we actually needed to skill-up in this very “new” environment of business thinking. Because our stores are owner-operated, we couldn’t just bombard them with instruction on what to do. It was going to be a slow, collaborative journey,” said Joe.
First tackle the waste
So head office took a few steps back, and did baseline auditing of the Spur Cape Town-based head office. The purpose of this was two-fold:
- to look at where they were and what interventions they could do to implement the practical things to get green,
- and it was also a process for them to learn. They had to know what they were talking about before approaching their franchisees. From there, Spur started setting up things like their waste management facility at the head office, where staff could bring their recyclables.
Spur head office works with Melanie Jones’ Zero-to-Landfill program, so all the organic separated waste is composted. “We do a lot of film and photo shoots here at head office, it makes sense that the organic waste goes to composting. All recyclables are separated and recycled. Our waste management programme has been quite useful to educate our staff. We conduct ongoing training to keep new staff members up to date.”
Recyclable, or in fact recycled?
Although facilities are getting better in SA, there is still a long way to go. “Tetrapak, for example, is recyclable, but you have to ensure that the waste gets to go to a specific recycling facility. So for the time being, we are focusing on things that people can easily understand. We are now starting to engage with our Franchisees to understand how we can assist them, to work with their landlords. They need to work closely with the landlords to get the process going,” says Joe.
At head office they set up their Green Champions. The business is quite big, so there are all these different departments doing different things. Instead of just one Green Champion running with the whole project, which is impossible, they’ve set up Gatekeepers. So you have a gatekeeper in charge of procurement, one for development, marketing, operations, etc.
These are all sustainability gatekeepers?
“They’re gatekeepers in terms of their KPIs (key performance indicators); they don’t purely focus on sustainability. We’ve also realised quite quickly that sustainability is not just about environmental sustainability – it’s the full triple bottom line. So the gatekeepers will look at their KPIs based on the three Ps (people, planet and profit). They will look at their strategy, how they’re involved in their community and their staff, their stakeholder engagement and then how to look after the environment in that same process. They then send feedback to the Sustainability Committee, so that we can track, measure, verify and report the information.”
And do you have a Sustainability Policy in place?
“Yes, our Sustainability Policy is a very practical policy and guideline that is available to our staff members. It aligns with our sustainability mission statement: creating sustainable relationships and communities for the future. It makes business sense to be financially driven, but with a strong sense of community. Financial sustainability is just as crucial to a business as environmental sustainability. And we’re very privileged here in terms of a corporation, because we’ve got our top executives serving on the sustainability committee as well, and they’ve been involved with this project from the beginning.”
Spur has different committees within their overall board. Pierre van Tonder, Chief Executive Officer of Spur Group, is on the Sustainability Committee, as well as Financial Director, Ronel van Dijk, and Operational Director, Mark Farrelly. So three directors are involved in sustainability. And then there is the Operational Committee, which Joe heads up with her team. She makes sure that the day-to-day stuff goes on behind the scenes and they feed back to their committee.
“They have their support, and they’re committed to the green projects. Everyone is focussed on getting in with the franchisees and supporting them in their businesses, because ultimately that’s where your big use of energy is. Your water, most of the waste gets created there, the food, etc.”
Next time we will continue this story. What became clear to me during this interview is that behind these and more green initiatives within this group, sits one powerfully motivated green mover and shaker – this woman Joe Stead. As always, it takes one champion to stir up an entire organisation and keep the energy spreading. Hats off to her in green salute.
By Elma Pollard