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Round table emphasises importance of food in the workplace

02 December 2016

Benefits to staff, businesses and the environment from the establishment of good food policies were emphasised earlier this week at a round table event organised by the Soil Association.

This included the need to place food provision at the heart of sustainability and staff wellbeing strategies.

Held at the Pearson headquarters in London, attendees at the Food for Life event included heads of corporate social responsibility (CSR), FMs and caterers from businesses including the Bank of England, the Environment Agency, Dixons Carphone, Harbour + Jones (caterers for Selfridges) and Vacherin.

Discussion identified the following key motives to improve workplace catering:
· Alignment of company values;
· Company reputation;
· Wider awareness of health and healthy eating;
· Added value brought of an independent verification such as the Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark.

Dixons Carphone head of corporate responsibility Kesah Trowell said: “A workplace marches on its stomach and food is an important part of morale so it should feature in any CSR strategy.”

She described the canteen as the "main social hub" where food is frequently the central topic of discussion.

"We make sure food is ethically and sustainably sourced and that our employees can choose from a nutritious, varied and well-priced menu."

Environment Agency catering contracts manager Ben Atkinson said: “Health, safety and wellbeing are huge elements of the Environment Agency’s working culture, as is sustainability in our procurement model.

"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.”

Many of those attending reported change was being driven from the ground up – if employees know more about good food and its impact, they will demand changes in workplace catering.

Attendees also recognised the cultural shift required – both internally within businesses and globally – to make good food an essential in the workplace.

Pearson was one of the first businesses to achieve a Food for Life Catering Mark in recognition of its more sustainable, ethical food choices in the canteen.

CSR head Peter Hughes said: “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. The Catering Mark brings together these issues within an independent verification that is easy to communicate within the company.”

Further information on raising the profile of workplace catering is available at: https://www.soilassociation.org/certification/catering/sectors/workplace-catering/


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