| A Profitable Helping of Sustainability |
By Bill Roth
June 27, 2008
A 5-step certification process can make restaurants greener and more
appealing to target consumers.
I have two reasons why I'm dedicating a two-part series to green
restaurants. The first is that restaurants account for one-third of
electricity consumption within the retail market space, making them the
largest single user. And each year the average restaurant generates
100,000 pounds of garbage while consuming approximately 300,000 gallons of
water. Restaurants have an important role to help the United States
achieve a cleaner environment, conserve water supplies and reduce our
dependence on increasingly expensive fossil fuels.
The second reason is that business opportunities in today's "Green
Economic Revolution" abound. It's a grass roots phenomenon with
restaurants blazing a path of innovation in sustainability that produces
cost savings and, most importantly, alignment with their customers'
increasing desire to buy green. Most of the lessons learned apply to all
One of the leaders in the Green Economic Revolution is Michael Oshman,
president of the non-profit Green Restaurant Association (GRA).
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"There is a grass roots explosion of interest in sustainability among
restaurant owners, suppliers and customers over the last two years,"
Oshman says. "In 2007, we tripled our memberships, and 2008 looks like we
will triple in size yet again. We have individual restaurants and
national chains calling us."
Thanks to 18 years of research on sustainable alternatives, the GRA can
offer the technology and supply-chain expertise to craft an implementation
plan for any restaurant, restaurant chain or its suppliers.
"The goal is to get the ball rolling," Oshman says. "Not every solution
works for every restaurant. Some restaurants are in a position to be more
aggressive implementing sustainability solutions, and some can't. Our
association is here to help a restaurant get started and to grow their
scale of effort every year."
The process used by the GRA has five steps:
An initial audit. "This step achieves two goals," Oshman says. "It
recognizes the actions a restaurant has already achieved in terms of
sustainability, and it generates a list of additional actions."
Getting started. In a collaborative manner the GRA assigns an expert to
work with the restaurant to prioritize and implement the next steps. The
goal is to find the "low-hanging fruit," meaningful actions of
sustainability that the restaurant could immediately achieve. This
creates a platform for green action items of increasing magnitude and
Performance audits. The GRA will then audit the restaurant to document
successfully implemented green action items.
Certification. A successful audit results in Certified Green Restaurant
status. The restaurant can use the certificate in its advertising and
display it in the facility to show customers they are dining in a "green
Continuous improvement. "There is no 'rest stop' in the path toward
sustainability," Oshman says. "Sustainability is an ongoing process.
There are always new products and ideas. The certification we offer
must be earned annually by a restaurant based upon their ongoing
implementation of increasing sustainable performance."
The GRA views sustainability as a path, not a destination. To move forward
on this path requires ongoing outreach and engagement with customers,
suppliers and associates.
"Our focus in working with restaurants is based upon achieving real world
changes with actual vendors, employees and customers," Oshman says. "Some
of our members have a strong sense of urgency and are driven to achieve
Sustainability leadership in their market segment. Others are not ready
for certification, but they do want to learn more, try some of the
products or suppliers we recommend and begin the process."
This process is holistic. The GRA reaches beyond the restaurant to work
with local vendors--such as a waste management company--and with
regional/national suppliers. Its product reviews, endorsements and
database of sustainability solutions encompass everything from napkins to
And what sustainability offers is increased cash flow and margins in a
tough industry that averages 5 percent margins.
"These sustainability solutions hit the bottom line two ways," Oshman
says. "They produce cost savings, and they increase revenues. My members
are coming to me because their customers are looking to buy from green
vendors and because they see how fuel, waste management and water prices
continue to escalate. It is a win-win. They save money and make money."
So even if you're not a restaurant entrepreneur, take a look at the GRA's
five-step process. It affords your business a path to saving money and
selling more to customers looking for green businesses implementing
sustainability as a core practice. This grass roots path is wide open to
entrepreneurs looking to capture a piece of the emerging $4 trillion
"Green Collar Economy."
Bill Roth is president of NCCT, a San Francisco-based consulting firm
facilitating innovations in sustainability marketing and green business
strategies. In addition to participating in the launch of the first
hydrogen-fueled Prius, he has held executive leadership positions as
senior vice president of marketing and sales with PG&E Energy Services, as
COO of Texaco Ovonics Hydrogen Solutions and president of Cleantech
America, a developer of solar power plants. Roth’s latest book,On Empty
(Out of Time)details an emerging multi-trillion dollar green economy that
is revolutionizing how the world does business, and how you can make money from it.