The SRA is an organisation born from Andrew’s pure love of looking after the world that started on his amazing trips to South Africa with his parents. We all try and do our bit to look after the planet in the time it needs us most – but Andrew takes it a step further by spreading his knowledge and drive into perhaps one of the most fundamental parts of our lives… Food and drink. In this episode, delve deeper into why the choices we make every single day affect the world around us, learn what on earth biodiversity is and why it is so important… and why soy milk might not be the amazing alternative to dairy as you may have first thought…
00:00:00 Marks introduction
00:02:07 Meeting Andrew, setting the scene in North London
00:02:29 What got Andrew interested in the planet? Being surrounded by warehouses as a child and going out to South Africa
- 00:04:06 “It left a huge impression on me, that there was something there that was worth celebrating and worth protecting.”
00:04:46 Chatting about Andrew’s degree in human geography
00:06:08 Travelling after university and helping out at the Tsunami help centre in 2005
- 00:07:07 “At the start it was pretty grim, sort of direct medical emergency stuff. But over time, we got more into re-building programmes and teaching in schools.”
00:07:40 Particular memories that have stuck with Andrew after travelling
- 00:06:18 “I think like most people, I’ve moved to the city and then iteratively bounced around a bit from job to job, trying to find something that leaves you smiling at the end of the week… I think the main memory I take from Thailand is that, even though what we were doing was objectively pretty horrible, everyone was sort of quite ‘up’.”
00:10:46 Coming back to London, working & doing a master’s degree
00:12:17 Going to work for Two Degrees
00:14:29 Chatting climate change and how big companies were managing to tackle it – the sceptical consumer
- 00:14:50 “Even the largest businesses are full of individuals who care just as much as you find people caring who work for small businesses.”
00:16:46 You can’t always get your food & drink from local suppliers…
- 00:17:45 “If you look for example at what inspired a lot of the companies that work with Two Degrees to take part in that initiative – it’s the increasing measurability of environmental outcomes of the value chains that they’re in. So from the stuff they buy to what they’re customers do with it – it forces them to look a little bit beyond their own walls.”
00:19:21 The Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) – what is it, how did it come about?
00:21:44 The two main challenges that the planet currently faces, in Andrew’s opinion
- 00:22:18 Chatting about biodiversity loss
- 00:22:28 “It’s a proxy for the reduction in the amount of wild space there is. As we turn our small farms into large farms, as we become more chemically intense or more mono-culture in our practices…”
00:24:53 The education of consumers, and why biodiversity is important on a day-to-day basis as well as on a large scale
- 00:26:21 “There’s something unbelievably sad that we’d be turning our planet into an environment for just ourselves.”
00:27:37 The sort of items on restaurant menus that affect biodiversity
- 00:28:10 “Soy has been a real hero in displacing dairy for a while, but a lot of soy is right at the heart of the deforestation problem.”
00:30:20 Is there a moral responsibility within the Hospitality industry to educate others about food provenance?
- 00:31:49 “If you’re defining quality without really any sense of welfare, provenance… You’re probably missing out on more interesting opportunities.”
00:32:51 How to get consumers to understand implications of food provenance, and dive deeper into sourcing the right things?
- 00:33:27 “It’s almost impossible in fact, when you take all of the issues that exist to imagine that our theory of change is that we make everyone an expert in all of it. What we try and do at the SRA is have this framework, these ten areas under environment sourcing and society…”
00:38:28 What the RSA provides, and the struggle of accessing information without a big budget
00:41:22 How do we get the balance right for looking after the environment in the restaurant industry?
- 00:42:34 “Our ask is around more veg and better meat. We spent most of the last decade getting people to up the quality of the meat in terms of welfare and other indicators. In the last sort of year, we’ve really started being heavier on the meat reduction message.”
- 00:45:37 “So we need everyone to do what they can on this, not just the vegan restaurants to be put on a pedestal and serve the people that have already made their minds up… We need to find ways of nudging the people in the mainstream.”
- 00:47:05 “As an individual, your choices are the biggest impact on the natural world.”
00:47:45 UK Welfare standards – are they really higher than the rest of the world?
- 00:50:02 “We need to think about eating locally and seasonally as well on the plant thing, and not just simply demonising meat.”
00:52:29 Sourcing, society & environment – the RSA framework
00:54:52 Talking legislation and how the UK is doing in this area – what would Andrew like to see the government do differently?
- 00:56:31 “What we’d really like the government to do is to provide better incentives for restaurants to do the right thing. It shouldn’t be a moral choice that creates martyrs, because ultimately that won’t mean the pace is achieved that we need.”
00:57:50 What are Scotland and France doing differently (and better) for the environment, that the UK could adopt?
01:01:59 Talking about Cabrito Goat and the different types of food – can we ever hit a perfect balance?
01:08:50 What Andrew would ask you to do as a consumer to make saving the planet a bit easier
- 01:09:27 “Trying to find restaurants, be they independent or chains, that are part of schemes like the RSA… But having an RSA sticker on their window isn’t a moral offset for going in and ordering a surf & turf. Talk to restaurants about sustainability and what the most sustainable choices are.”
01:10:00 Where can you go to find out more about the RSA and Andrew himself?
01:11:03 Final thoughts, Marks signoff
If you would like to learn more about Andrew Stephen, the SRA and all the restaurants involved in making the world a better place… Check out their social media channels and website:
Linkedin: Sustainable Restaurant Association