Making Sustainability Stick by Stephen Oswald

7th June 2019

Making sustainability stick by Stephen Oswald

Brexit aside, 2019 seems to have been the “year of green” in the UK with consumers taking unprecedented action to highlight the impact of environmental issues. From Extinction Rebellion to the Environment Agency saying £1bn a year needs to be spent on flood management, there has been so much activity recently to raise the profile of sustainability issues, and this is only going to increase.

Transformative change required

Environment secretary Michael Gove recently announced a ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds from April 2020. Hospitality operators should feel proud of the part they played in helping put the issue on the government agenda, with many companies leading the way in removing these items in the past couple of years.

However, suppliers and operators need to maintain the momentum on tackling sustainability and ethical trading in our businesses and work to embed a positive culture around these issues within our teams. Brexit has put the brakes on for many businesses as they wait to see its impact, but hospitality leaders need to keep moving forward and put sustainability high on their agenda.

This isn’t just a worthy stance, it’s business critical. By having robust sustainability and ethical trading policies your business is protected. Initially you’ll be judged on superficial things customers see in your venues but, increasingly, consumers are digging deeper into your restaurant’s sustainability credentials and issues such as modern slavery policies and the suppliers you use. Operators need to select the right suppliers to do the hard work in sourcing and supplying the products and packaging that tick these increasingly important boxes for consumers.

This might include suppliers that deliver in reusable plastic trays and offer compostable packaging, or companies that offer sustainable seafood or products with an explicit sustainability message.

Sustainability doesn’t cost more

At a time when operators are increasingly searching for better margins to offset ever-rising business costs, adopting a sustainable stance on sourcing will lead to a more consistent and reliable product and reduced costs.

I think there’s a big misconception that sustainable products are more expensive. Our Direct Seafoods business sells plenty of good-value fish that has been caught sustainably, such as Best Aquaculture Practices four star-certificated prawns from Vietnam.

To embed a culture of sustainability in your business it’s important to give it a dedicated focus initially. We have a sustainability manager working across the Bidfresh business who also focuses on ethical trading, as well as sustainability specialists in our produce and seafood businesses. As a business leader it gives me great peace of mind knowing we have a specific focus on these key areas. This focus also helped us make significant progress, such as becoming the first foodservice member of the Ethical Trading Initiative.

We have created a sustainability culture through constant reinforcement and clarity and through education and support for customers on issues such as at-risk fish species. We encourage them to change and give them options to help push them across the line. A great business book, entitled Nudge, offers some great tips on this.

Empower your team

You need to empower people in your business to create ideas around sustainability. It makes them feel good and can add real value to your business. We are trying to embrace circular economy principles within the business and one of our Oliver Kay managers suggested introducing an automatic screw process that removes water from fruit and vegetables to convert all waste produce from our warehouses into compost for farmers. It has had big benefits – for us and the farmers.

I don’t think I would have seen the value of such ideas before I undertook my two-year Master of Studies (MSt) at Cambridge. I’m far more willing to approve projects and ideas from people within the business now, as I understand the issues.

Sustainability leadership 

I think every hospitality business would benefit from the MSt in sustainability leadership I studied, and I thoroughly recommend it to leaders. If you understand sustainability issues, they won’t cost you as much to implement. The number-one issue for operators at present is costs, and you have to work sustainability into your business without increasing your cost base. I’m still using what I learned from this course as principles to guide the business forward.

The most valuable thing I learned is you can’t force people to embed sustainable practice, you have to encourage them and work with them to convince them they want to go in that direction. If you don’t get people behind you, they will rebel – and sustainability won’t stick.

Stephen Oswald is chief executive of fresh food specialist Bidfresh and holds a Master of Studies (MSt) in sustainability leadership

To receive emails from us and keep up to date with the latest jobs and industry news, please complete the short form below.  We will never share your email with any third parties.

    (*) required fields

    Privacy Policy

    The Recruitment Room is committed to protecting the privacy of our candidates, clients and users of our website and services. This policy sets out what personal data we collect from you and how we process and protect that data when you use our website or services. We will only use your personal data in accordance with the terms of this statement.

    Any usage below of ‘we’, ‘us’ or ‘our’ is a reference to The Recruitment Room Ltd and The Recruitment Room.

    We may update this policy occasionally. If we make any changes to our privacy policy, we will post the updated policy on our website. We therefore encourage you to visit our website from time to time in order to keep up to date with the terms of the policy and any potential changes. Amendments made to the policy will not jeopardise the protection and privacy of your personal data.

    The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be applicable law in the UK from the 25th of May 2018. Your new rights in accordance with GDPR are included in this policy but will only apply once the GDPR comes into effect on the 25th of May.

    Personal information we may gather from you

    As a recruitment business we must process personal data (including sensitive personal data) in order to provide recruitment services to our clients and candidates. In doing so, we act as a data controller.

    You may give your personal details to us directly, such as on a CV, an application or registration form, via our website or by corresponding with us by phone, email or otherwise. Personal data that we may collect includes:



    email address

    phone number



    employment history




    Please note however, that this list is not exhaustive.

    Depending on the nature of the role that you have applied for or that we have offered you, we may need to collect personal sensitive data. Under the General Data Protection Regulation this includes information about your health (for example details concerning any sick leave you may have taken during previous roles), information about any disability and details of any offences you may have committed or are alleged to have committed.

    Personal information from other sources

    We may also collect your personal information from another source such as a jobs board, personal recommendations or LinkedIn.

    Do you have to provide us with personal data?

    You may refuse to give us your personal and sensitive personal data. You also have the right to ask us to delete, change or stop processing your data that we already have (see below in what circumstances). If you do not provide us with personal or sensitive personal data however, it may restrict our ability to provide you with the recruitment and other related services that you have requested.

    Purpose of processing and legal basis

    We will collect your personal data (which may include sensitive personal data) and process that data for the following purposes:

    To provide you with work-finding services to facilitate the recruitment process;

    to assess your suitability for a position;

    to tailor resources and services according to your preferences;

    to maintain our business relationship, where you are a candidate, client or a user of our website;

    to perform administration and operational functions.

    The Recruitment Room must have a legal basis for processing your personal data. The legal bases we rely upon to pursue our processing purposes are:

    Our legitimate interests in providing you with our services. Such interests can however, be overridden by your privacy interests; legal obligation in some cases, where it is necessary for us to meet our legal or regulatory responsibilities; your consent to data processing for the activities not covered by our legitimate interests, which we will obtain from you from time to time.

    An example of a situation where we would rely on consent is when we ask for permission to introduce you to a client; contractual obligations to which you are subject. This includes situations where we are negotiating or have entered into a placement agreement with you or any other contract to provide services to you.

    Legitimate interest

    Where The Recruitment Room has relied on a legitimate interest to process your personal data our legitimate interests is as follows:

    To offer you the tailored and efficient recruitment service you expect of us.

    As a recruitment business, we introduce candidates to clients for permanent and temporary employment as well as offering clients’ vacancies to candidates. In order to do so, the exchange of personal data of our clients and candidates is essential to our operation. In order to support our candidates’ ambitions and to assist our clients with their resourcing needs, we also require to keep a database of client and candidate personal data. Furthermore, to maintain, expand and develop our business we need to record the data of prospective candidates and client data.

    We want to offer you a tailored service that is customised based on the information that you provide us with. We also want to offer an efficient service, which means that we need to use your data for payroll and other administrative activities.

    Third Parties

    As a recruitment business we may disclose your information to third parties where appropriate. The Recruitment Room may share your information with the following third parties:

    Our clients, in other words, prospective employers.

    Payment intermediaries such as an umbrella company.

    Pre-employment screening companies.

    Government and law enforcement authorities.

    Outsourced IT and document storage providers, for example servers and cloud-based data storage services.

    Third party service providers, such as lawyers, accountants and technical support.

    Any third party that we may share your data with must ensure the security of that data. Third parties are also obliged to only use your information for the purposes we have outlined. We will not pass on sensitive data to third parties without your consent, unless we are legally required to do so.

    Overseas Transfers

    The Recruitment Room may transfer only the information you provide to us to countries outside the European Economic Area (‘EEA’) for the purposes of providing you with work-finding services. We will take steps to ensure adequate protections are in place to ensure the security of your information. The EEA comprises the EU member states plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

    How long we store your information

    The Recruitment Room will retain your personal data only for as long as is necessary. Different laws require us to keep different data for different periods of time.

    The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003, require us to keep work-seeker records for at least one year from (a) the date of their creation or (b) after the date on which we last provide you with work-finding services.

    We must also keep your payroll records, holiday pay, sick pay and pensions auto-enrolment records for as long as is legally required by HMRC and associated national minimum wage, social security and tax legislation.

    Where we have obtained your consent to process your personal and sensitive personal data, we will keep your data for 2 years after the last meaningful contact with you. Upon expiry of that period we will seek further consent from you. If consent is not granted, we will delete the personal data that we hold on you.

    Your rights

    Please be aware that you have the following data protection rights:

    The right to be informed about the personal data we process on you;

    The right of access to the personal data we process on you;

    The right to rectification of your personal data;

    The right to erasure of your personal data in certain circumstances;

    The right to restrict processing of your personal data;

    The right to data portability in certain circumstances;

    The right to object to the processing of your personal data that was based on a public or legitimate interest;

    The right not to be subjected to automated decision making and profiling; and

    The right to withdraw consent at any time.

    Where you have consented to us processing your personal and sensitive data you have the right to withdraw that consent at any time by contacting our data protection officer (see below).

    Complaints or queries

    If you wish to complain about this privacy policy or any of the procedures set out in it, please contact our data protection officer Carole Williams at

    You also have the right to raise concerns with Information Commissioner’s Office on 0303 123 1113 or at, or any other relevant supervisory authority should your personal data be processed outside of the UK, if you believe that your data protection rights have not been adhered to.

    The Recruitment Room

    Tel: 0113 322 0660