Deforestation is likely to be the big moral panic for 2019, according to Andrew Stephen, chief executive of the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

Speaking at MCA’s Food To Go Conference, he said that while single-use plastic was the big focus of 2018, in part down to the BBC documentary Blue Planet, a new series called Our Planet has the potential to wipe up another storm for the eating and drinking out sector.

Launching on Netflix in around 10 weeks, and to be screened in 192 simultaneously, the programme, narrated by Sir David Attenborough will “document and make the biggest link ever in the public consciousness between the food we eat and the places we love on earth,” said Stephen.

Stephen said there had never been a better moment for businesses to seize on the momentum of these issues and create positive change. He said that while there has been “a tremendous amount of progress” in the sector, it was evident that there were some structural gaps in the way businesses are approaching the matter, with boards not putting these issues in their KPIs and NPD teams lacking the skills and time to understand the 360-degree impact of their innovations.

He said it was very easy for operators to start to ape and appropriate the language of sustainability, and to put a vegan dish on the menu and describe yourself as moving in a plant based direction, but that ultimately the aim should be, to be a restorative business – one that leaves people and the land in a better place when it opens its doors.

There are three key areas where the SRA sees the opportunity to take action now, he said. The first is food waste, the second is around the amount of meat we are serving, and the third is around reduce, reuse and recycling packaging.

“Last year was massive year of awareness and 2019 needs to be a year of concerted action in the sector,” he said.