By Antonio Pasolini — For several decades, practicality trumped health when it came to food choices, with disastrous consequences on human health, including soaring rates of obesity, heart problems and diabetes, besides the risks associated with environmentally-unfriendly pesticides. Since most people spend a great deal of their days at work, improving access to proper food in the workplace is essential.
Fortunately, a paradigm shift is brewing.
“A workplace marches on its stomach and food is an important part of morale so it should feature in any CSR strategy," Kesah Trowell, head of Corporate Responsibility at Dixons Carphone, a UK cell phone retailer, said at an event held by the UK Soil Association at the headquarters of Pearson in London.
Participants brought to the discussion table their views on how to improve food choices for their staff and the challenges of putting food provision at the heart of sustainability and staff wellbeing strategies.
The event was attended by the heads of CSR and caterers from businesses including the Bank of England, the Environment Agency, Harbour + Jones (caterers for Selfridges) and Vacherin, amongst others. Four main points were identified: an alignment of company values, company reputation, wider awareness of health and healthy eating and added value brought by an independent verification such as the Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark.
Some of the attendees rightly pointed out that change was being driven from the ground up—that is, as employees learn more about good food, they will demand changes in workplace catering. They also recognized that the cultural shift requires good food to become an essential component in the workplace.
Pearson, who hosted the event, is in a good position to hold a conversation on the topic as it was one of the first businesses to achieve a Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark, thanks to their more sustainable, ethical food choices in the canteen.
"Pearson has very clear values that have been in place for some time. Our staff as a group care about health and they care about the environment. So demand for catering is something that came from the grass roots – both driven by employees and driven by our values. Another main driver from our staff is about the environment; what can we do about sustainable sourcing, food miles, and offsetting carbon emissions," said Peter Hughes, head of Corporate Responsibility.
His opinion was echoed by that of Ben Atkinson, contracts manager for catering at the Environment Agency. “We are very aware of our responsibility to support food producers in this country and this influences our choice of caterers. All three of these elements seem to point towards food policy and CSR and continue to influence our catering standards at our sites," he said.
The event is part of a series of small discussions to make workplace food catering an integral part of sustainability.
More information on the initiative can be found here.
Image credit: Soil Association