Agriculture, Food & Nutrition

Sustainable Food & Supply Chain

Sustainability from the Source

Admin | Jan 14, 2021

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Traditional fishing by sustainable fisheries. Source: Banyan Tree Group

This is an original article in collaboration with Banyan Tree Group. 

In recent years, consumers have become increasingly passionate about food – not just what they eat, but where it comes from. This is for good reason, as food choices greatly affect our health and collective future. In fact, food carbon footprints across the value chain make up over one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions!

As one of the fastest-growing global industries, tourism plays a key role in serving the greater good. Tourism supply chains are a big part of this, as they comprise many components – not just food, but also accommodation, travel and attractions, water, energy and infrastructure. In fact, tourism supply chains may contribute as much as ten times the impact of direct operations. A sustainable supply chain is thus critical – more than risk management, it opens up opportunities for businesses to make responsible choices.

As a socially responsible business founded with the core value of driving sustainable development, Banyan Tree Group’s approach to a sustainable supply chain is to create partnerships, evangelise its commitment to the greater good, and actively form business relationships with those who share its values. To this end, it seeks to drive a sustainable future by championing responsibly sourced food and green procurement.

Putting sustainability on the menu

For Banyan Tree Group, the personal wellbeing of guests goes hand in hand with responsibly sourced food. In July last year, the Group soft-opened ORI9IN, its first gourmet organic farm in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

ORI9IN is Banyan Tree Group’s first gourmet organic farm in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

A joint venture with two Michelin-starred chef James Noble of The Boutique Farmers, this agro-tourism partnership aims to lead the curve in sustainable retained farming and cooperatives for living and eating well. Set on 350 acres of land, ORI9IN is the only retained farming operation globally that partners with a network of top restaurants and hotels, focusing on import substitution and reducing carbon footprint without sacrificing flavour.

The farm is a joint venture with chef-turned-sustainable-farmer James Noble of The Boutique Farmers.

Sustainability involves not just what is served, but where it is sourced and how it was caught or produced. Did you know that since 1970, global populations of marine species utilised by humans have halved? There are over 400 known endangered marine species linked to human consumption of seafood.

In line with marine conservation goals around biodiversity, the Group implemented a 25% benchmark of sustainable seafood sourcing by 2025 from sustainable fisheries last year. This is based on the level of exploitation or impact of production or capture, with careful decisions made to ensure that food served is responsibly sourced. Experts from the Group’s non-profit sustainability arm, Banyan Tree Global Foundation, will review seafood species served at each location and support identification of sustainably certified alternatives and opportunities for its properties. This is in addition to the Group’s existing policies of not serving food or products made from endangered species.

Food waste: One of the biggest contributors to GHG emissions

Were you aware that food waste generates a HUGE source of methane to the atmosphere? One-third of food produced globally is wasted every year. At the end of all food supply chains is a gigantic pile of food waste, and the methane levels contribute significantly to climate change! In fact, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide and it is far more devastating to our climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat.

To mitigate this, Banyan Tree Group actively seeks to reduce its carbon footprint by measuring its food footprint, tracking and reducing waste by source, and implementing diversion programmes to prevent it from going to landfill. In line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, it aims to achieve 30% waste reduction and 50% landfill diversion by 2025. Efforts towards these goals include composting, donating to animal farms, digestion to produce energy or heat water, and working with partners, such as Scholars of Sustenance in Thailand, to direct unused food to those in need.

Partnerships for plant-based diets

Banyan Tree Group has also embarked on collaborations in different areas of the food value chain. One of them is with Grassroots Pantry, a pioneering brand in Hong Kong at the fore of plant-based cuisine in Asia’s fine dining scene. 

Banyan Tree Group is collaborating with Grassroots Pantry, paving the way for more inventive and healthy food concoctions.

By introducing techniques and combining ingredients not often used in commercial kitchens, the partnership can help pave the way for more inventive and healthy concoctions across Banyan Tree hotels in the near future. An example amidst development is a capsule menu made using plant-based, immunity-boosting foods, and sustainable kitchen practices. Apart from its obvious health benefits, plant-based diets are far better for the environment. According to a 2019 study by Oxford University and the University of Minnesota, going vegan for two-thirds of meals could cut food-related carbon emissions by 60%. 

Additionally, the Group will work with sustainable food supply distributor Country Foods to reduce environmental footprints by introducing plant-based products (meat, dairy, and protein alternatives) into its supply chain, starting with its hotels in Thailand.

Responsible procurement as a catalyst for change

The COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated sustainability conversations, and as businesses look to respond to these trends, many recognise that procurement has a central role to play. It is vital that businesses equip their suppliers with the correct tools and work collaboratively to implement sustainable alternatives.

In 2019, Banyan Tree Group implemented a Code of Conduct for its suppliers to map supply chain transparency in ingredients sourcing and promote socio-environmental practices. With close to 1,400 suppliers registered to date, actionable goals and deadlines are established to ensure compliance.

In 2020, the Group first aimed for 80% of dollar purchases from Tier 1 suppliers completing self-assessments, with a future goal of 100% engagement annually. Supplier conformity to external accreditations, such as ISO, and onsite evaluations will be enacted for high-risk suppliers from 2025, and poor supplier performance or nonconformity will be supported with remediation action. 

More importantly, the goal here is not to penalise, but educate suppliers and support them in their adoption of sustainable practices! In the near future, the Group plans to incorporate a complete supplier list and map online for transparency, and encourage others within hospitality to do so as well.

Sustainability is no longer a “nice to have” but the way forward

In a world of scarce resources and unlimited needs, sustainability is the only way forward. By working closely with their suppliers, businesses can reduce their environmental and social impact and position themselves for strong growth. 

As Dr Steve Newman, Director of Banyan Tree Global Foundation puts it:

“It is our hope that the COVID-19 period, challenging as it is for the world, will prove to be a catalyst to review what, where and how we source, and an impetus for a responsible approach. 

Post-COVID-19, it is more important than ever for us to shorten our supply chain, by way of promoting local procurement and connecting travellers to a destination through food. By increasing community resilience through adopting sustainable practices and supporting local and responsible procurement, we can begin our journey to “build back better” and make a difference, now.”

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