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Has Covid-19 created a golden opportunity for sustainability?

As part of M&IT’s sustainability month, taking place throughout November, 15 Hatfields’ general manager Warren Campbell explains why he believes Covid-19 has gifted a golden opportunity to ensure that sustainability is at the heart of every new business decision…

One of the positives to come out of the pandemic is that the environment got a break from the ‘old’ way of how we were doing things.

Society has developed a greater collective conscience and we’ve been offered an extraordinary chance to stop and reconsider how we do things as we think about what is important and recognise how fragile our lifestyles are.

As a result, we’ve witnessed a shift in values. The general public are now showing more environmental empathy, which can only lead to greater demands for eco‐friendly options on our sector as it filters down into everyday life.

As the home to the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, public health and sustainability have always been at the core of 15Hatfields – they’re our fundamental passions! Over the past few months, we’ve worked tirelessly to continue to integrate the two to ensure that we’re not only sustainably secure but can importantly keep client pricing exactly the same, regardless of the pandemic and impacts on the business.

Since our opening in 2008, we’ve been demonstrating that after the initial investment, operating a truly sustainable business can lead to cost savings in the medium and long‐term. Today, in addition to the pandemic, we have the very real prospect of Brexit, a double hit to the UK economy, so have been relooking at our supply lines to ensure we continue to use local, regional and national products and services, as well as seasonally available ingredients for event catering, to ensure that we help support local jobs and the national economy and still function as viable businesses. We’ve been using this down time to further develop long‐term sustainable partnerships as an active form of future proofing our businesses.

It’s easy to think that single‐use disposable items potentially offer the safest alternatives to mitigate the impact of viruses such as COVID‐19. But, we’ve kept our pledge not to engage with single‐use plastic items and have been determined to source innovative alternatives.

All staff at 15Hatfields wear reusable face masks made from recovered ocean plastics with a vast supply of paper filter inserts as well as recyclable gloves. We’re also encouraging delegates, for example, to carry their own hand sanitiser and are offering free refills, rather than giving away free plastic bottles for every guest.

We implore other venues to reconsider the single‐use plastic adoption culture as a quick fix to be COVID‐secure, given the items’ journeys, inability to properly track their production and packaging and lack of detailed sanitation procedures.

We are reducing supply lines to stay sustainably secure and therefore have optimum control over our own safety procedures. As a venue we have worked with Terracycle for years on safely recycling our gloves, to ensure good hand hygiene, given the high volume of contact with different delegates in a pre‐COVID world.

Lunch is safely served to each individual based on their dietary preferences and packaged up sustainably by our admirable catering partners, Eden, and remarkably, we’ve not had to reduce our options, so delegates are offered a full menu with great variety. Our lunch platters are 100% natural and compostable, made from naturally fallen palm leaves from the Adaka nut palm tree that are then washed and pressed into a high temperature mould, ready for us to safely use!

Along with making our digital signage, we opted for heavy duty durable floor direction mats to negate the need for flimsy floor stickers in high footfall areas that would likely need regularly replacing. We also have a meticulous in‐house water filtration system with clear guidelines about the collection and sterilisation of used glass bottles and drinking glasses, which we’re confident is both more sustainable and more hygienic than individual plastic bottles transported in from unknown production lines.

We continually strive to educate other businesses that a shift to sustainability doesn’t have to cost the earth. Sustainability, safety and affordability is a plausible balancing act that doesn’t need to see vital priorities falter in order for survival. Sustainability should be at the forefront of every decision.