From low wages and long hours to cultures of bullying, the hospitality industry has a history of treating its people poorly. It’s time this became a thing of the past. Here, The Sustainable Restaurant Association explores why providing safe, healthy and progressive work environments is important, and shares the benefits this can bring to your business.
Social sustainability – the ‘S’ in ESG – looks at how a company handles its relationships with customers, suppliers and staff. This includes ensuring fair and equal treatment of all employees, promoting diversity and inclusion, providing adequate compensation, encouraging a healthy work-life balance and offering opportunities for career progression and personal development.
This social side of sustainability is every bit as important as reducing kitchen waste, tracking carbon emissions or choosing local produce. As explained by the UN Global Compact, “companies affect what happens to employees, workers in the value chain, customers and local communities, and it is important to manage [these] impacts proactively.” This is relevant across all sectors, but carries a special resonance for hospitality – an industry built on people.
This is why ‘Treat Staff Fairly’ is one of 10 key focus areas of the Food Made Good Standard. We look to confirm employees are treated well and that their working conditions are better than statutory legal minimums. In doing so, we aim to encourage working environments where staff feel safe, valued and supported. We want to forge a new image of hospitality – one in which people can see themselves building rewarding long-term careers.
This is obviously important from an ethical perspective: most of us spend a significant proportion of our lives at work, and everyone deserves a safe, fair and encouraging environment. Social sustainability also makes good business sense: treating your staff well can have a positive impact on your bottom line.
Benefits to recruitment
Fostering a positive work environment can seriously reduce your turnover. It’s not rocket science: employees who are happy and engaged with a clear career progression ahead of them are more likely to stay for the long haul. With staff shortages a continued problem across the sector, encouraging loyalty makes more sense than ever. It’s significantly cheaper to focus on retaining the staff you have than to hire and train new employees.
When you do have to hire, minimise any recruitment headaches by making sure your business is part of the new paradigm. Implement clear, written policies for reasonable working hours, attractive pay and benefits, a focus on personal development and a zero-tolerance attitude towards bullying and harassment.
Improved staff wellbeing
Better work-life balance means happier, well-rested staff with fewer health problems – both physical and mental. When your employees are taken care of, you’re likely to see fewer sick days. This also renders the work itself more sustainable over the long run, making it more likely that people will stay in the industry for longer.
Companies that prioritise staff wellbeing tend to cultivate better relationships with their employees (no mystery there). This can lead to a happier, more positive workplace culture, fostering higher employee motivation and engagement – and better productivity as a result.
Not only is an inclusive approach to recruitment crucial for attracting (and keeping) top talent, but bringing together a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences can also makes for a more creative, collaborative and inspiring work environment.
Benefits to the local community
In many restaurants, much of the staff will live within the local area. Offering a place of work that is safe, fair and well-compensated helps your restaurant to play a valuable role in its community – which in turn carries its own set of benefits.
When your employees go home at the end of a shift, they talk. In recent years, the culture of silence around abuses in the industry has dissipated. Businesses that are treating their staff well in today’s environment are more likely to be talked about in positive terms as someone ‘doing it right’. Businesses who are doing the work when it comes to social sustainability are likely to see improved reputation, once again easing pressures on recruitment.
Ready to learn more? Read about the 10 key focus areas of the Food Made Good Standard here, or sign up today to start your own sustainability journey.