In the first of a series of articles profiling the finalists in the Sustainability category, sponsored by Pernod Ricard, at the Retailers’ Retailer Awards, MCA speaks to Hawksmoor about the importance of doing the right thing when the hero product is steak

“We sell a lot of meat, and if you are going to do that, you have got to do it in the right way,” Hawksmoor’s head of purpose, Ellie Besley-Gould, tells MCA. “We have a responsibility and also a huge opportunity at the same time.”

Being sustainable has been a priority for Hawksmoor since it launched in 2006, but it has stepped up its efforts considerably over the past three years.

This is partly down to the shifting landscape and the broader awareness of the urgency of action on climate change, but also because there is much better data available which makes progress more achievable.

Due to the size of the business, and the fact it is still growing, there is also an increasing impetus on the business to report these initiatives.

“What is really critical for me is that you don’t lose sight of that values piece when you are striving for commercial growth”, Besley-Gould says. 

Suppliers are also being asked about their sustainable credentials more, meaning there is pressure on them to affect change, she says.

The Graphite Capital-backed business claimed to have become the world’s first carbon neutral restaurant group in February 2022 – a year ahead of its target – and joined a very small number of hospitality businesses in the UK to achieve B Corp status last summer – an achievement Besley-Gould is particularly proud of.

Offsets aren’t the answer

Another significant achievement was the reduction in carbon emissions per customer by 30% compared to 2021, something she had to triple check in disbelief.  

But far from lavishing her with praise in the boardroom, the exec team “tore the numbers to pieces and really interrogated me”.

“I loved that they were doing that – three years ago a board would never even have looked at these numbers. I thought it was really exciting in terms of how things had moved along.”

Progress for Besley-Gould comes from achieving agreed goals and a core focus on reducing emissions. “It’s so easy for a company to just buy offsets and not worry about a reduction plan, but for us there is no point in the offsets if you are not also reducing.”

Hawksmoor is actively engaged with its supply chain and has been tracking its scope one, two and three emissions for the past three years. Its procurement system enables it to look at what its top scope three emissions are on a granular level.

EDI Langoustine scampi tartare sauce

The priority for last year was to pick off the top five sources of emissions – beef, dairy, red wine, seafood and employee commuting – and implement a project to reduce them all.

Policies in place

The business already had a separate 40-page policy for its meat, covering everything from animal welfare to ethics, but alongside that recently introduced a procurement policy for all of its suppliers which lays out standards including a commitment that they reduce their own emissions.

The restaurant group has also been carrying out webinars with suppliers on their net zero goals which has prompted some suppliers to share best practice between themselves. And it has just recruited a new procurement lead who will be working more closely with suppliers to set out more stringent standards.

Internally, Hawksmoor launched a big energy project at the beginning of January, which is primarily focused on gas and electricity but also on hot water usage. “We’ve got these amazing new data tools which are using to map every kitchen and restaurant space,” she explains. 

It is also trialling a consolidation plan around deliveries at its restaurants in Manchester, Liverpool and Edinburgh, in a bid to try and reduce deliveries from around 36 a week to those sites currently, to one each week, by consolidating the supply chain. While its Liverpool restaurant, and soon to open Dublin site, are the first to have all-electric kitchens – powered by renewable sources.

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Reframing the narrative

The business is conscious that not all of its customers care about reducing their meat intake, so it is careful not to ram its message down people’s throats. But for Besley-Gould it is a chance for Hawksmoor to “reframe the narrative” through a gentler approach.

It now tries to weave its sustainable stance into its newsletters in a more subtle way after working with a framing expert who advised them to go easy on the heavy science stuff and instead create stories around nature and food, such as the farms it works with, and drop its message in that way.

Feedback from recipients has now transformed from either minimal or “shouty people asking what’s the point?” to customers actively getting in touch to find out more about what the business is doing. “In the restaurants it can also become a really interesting talking point with the server and seems to be a reason for repeat bookings,” she says.

As well as being of increasing interest to customers, being sustainable is of increasing importance to its staff, and becoming more of an attraction to staff in terms of where they want to work. Hawksmoor has a ‘green team’ which is centrally managed and has quarterly meetings with best practice, suggestions or ‘green gripes’ shared across the estate.

Besley-Gould says that one of the most important drivers of these changes in the business is for everyone to retain a sense of pride in the place they work, and to want to strive for continual improvement.

“It’s about moving from those really easy wins to really hard but really important ones,” she adds. “It’s about taking it that bit further, cementing what we do and building up the foundations for growth.”

The Sustainability Award is sponsored by Pernod Ricard

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