ASSET-H&C’s 2023 Public Conference on Sustainable Food Systems
December 12, 2023

Sharing is caring!

Across the entire food chain, spanning from farming through harvest, processing, and distribution to the ultimate consumption, food losses and wastes are inevitable. If we were to conceptualize food wastage as a nation, it would rank as the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter globally, surpassed only by the USA and China (FAO, 2015). A comprehensive understanding of sustainable models has the potential to motivate all players in the food chain to further minimize food waste.

 

 

As pioneers in the sustainable tourism and hospitality sector, the ASSET-H&C network organized a conference themed “Sustainable Food System in Hospitality: Where to start?” on November 16th, 2023. The aim was to inspire our 13 member schools and the broader hospitality community to explore additional possibilities in building a greener future, both for the hospitality sector and the world at large.

Continue reading to discover key highlights and insights from this impactful conference.

 

Responsible Food Production and Economic Resilience

In tackling the urgent challenges facing the food industry, it is imperative to provide economic incentives to stakeholders at every stage of the food chain to initiate sustainable practices.

Marou Faiseurs de Chocolat, a chocolate company that uses solely Vietnamese cocoa beans to produce chocolate in Vietnam, spotlighted their responsible sourcing from a unique network of over 500 farmers in 7 provinces. “We put a strong focus on building a community of farmers who commit to sustainable farming practices. Starting from the economic aspect, we offer much higher prices to attract their interest and motivate them to switch to multi-crops for a better income”, shared Le Hong Pham, Innovation Planning Manager at Marou.

To foster sourcing transparency, the company recently developed a mobile app that helped farmers – fermenters – distributors trace every bean bag, coded with QR, in the process. Pham also shared that a new app TraceFarm would be launched in December 2023 to track and analyze farms’ performance data and educate farmers with e-learning, and real-time expert support to contribute to the success of their sustainability initiatives. Besides regular seminars about permaculture for farmers, the digital transformation program ensures transparent information sharing among all stakeholders, fostering inspiration for sustainable production. This comprehensive approach not only enhanced farmers’ livelihoods but also expanded the reach of Vietnamese cocoa to 32 countries, featuring 13 shops and over 175 developed products.

 

François Schnoebelen, Director of Ecole Hoteliere et de Tourisme (EHT) Paul Dubrule, a member of ASSET-H&C in Siem Reap, shared insights on empowering sustainable food production through the procurement process. The Eco-campus committee, led by students, devised a questionnaire for suppliers to assess the sustainability of their food production. The data collected empowered students to advocate for responsible farming practices, with the option to consider alternative suppliers if needed.

 

This approach not only encourages suppliers and farmers to adopt greener practices to maintain their partnership with the school but also motivates them to meet higher food standards to appeal to potential clients, ultimately improving their profits. François noted, “While enhancing sustainability awareness beyond the school community, students gain practical experience in sustainable food sourcing procedures applicable to their future careers in hospitality.

 

Food Waste Management

In business, Food Waste is a loss”, shared Vuong Minh Thu, Sustainability Specialist at Pizza 4P’s, reads “pizza for peace”, a Vietnam-based company with 32 restaurants in 4 countries. Beyond economic considerations, there are ethical, social, and ecological benefits associated with measures aimed at preventing food waste. Thu added: “Knowing how much we waste is the first step. At Pizza 4P’s, we measured and found a great proportion of waste from our kitchens.

 

With a Kaizen culture engraved into their whole operation, a Japanese approach that values continuous improvement based on the idea that ‘small, ongoing positive changes can reap significant improvements’, their kitchen team has taken the lead to improve food processing proficiencies, then gradually maximize and standardize procedures to reduce waste within their chains. With food that is not consumed, they work with NGOs like VietHarvest to serve meals to underprivileged communities, feed the animals and compost to fertilize their partnered farms.

 

On a smaller scale, EHT Paul Dubrule’s canteen was serving 350 meals daily, where the students noticed a large quantity of rice waste in the trash can. The Eco committee came up with the idea to serve rice in very small cubical portions. At the same time, the new policy was communicated well to all students: ‘You can take as many rice cubes as you like, but do not leave them uneaten’. “After a year, rice consumption reduces, and rice waste has dropped to almost zero in the canteen”, shared François. How amazing!

 

Marou also wowed the participants at the conference by giving out a few samples of wrapping papers made from cocoa bean husks that were discharged during the seed treatment. A part of the husks is used to feed the egg-laying chickens whose eggs will then make delicious pastries at Marou’s shops. The rest turn into papers, with the support of a technical partner, that are used to pack their beautiful chocolate bars.

With his observation and years of experience working with farmers in Vietnam, Miquel Angel, an expert in sustainable tourism and founder of MQL Sustainable Services, highlighted a humorous, but true, solution: “We can also learn a lot from the farmers to reduce food waste, because they never waste anything! Nothing!”.

We don’t dare to say that we have a complete solution to food waste, but it’s important that we keep exploring and improving”, Thu emphasized. Humble but determined, Thu resembled the spirit of the whole conference and all participants in this long sustainable food journey.

 

Awareness and Involvement of Stakeholders

 

Recognizing that the most effective improvement ideas for organizations often come internally, it is universally acknowledged that fostering awareness of sustainability values among the teams and granting them the agency to analyze, develop, and monitor best practices is a highly successful approach.

 

EHT Paul Dubrule exemplifies this by entrusting their young apprentices, as young as 17 years old, to spearhead all Eco-campus initiatives with minimal guidance from trainers. This bold move has propelled their school to become the first vocational school globally to achieve a Green Flag certification, showcasing a commitment to key sustainability principles.

 

Pizza 4P’s actively engaged their kitchen team in developing waste management procedures for all 31 restaurants in their chain, while Marou expanded beyond Fair Trade by incorporating social and environmental standards into their processes. Despite challenges in changing farmers’ mindsets, their team of 8 experts and other staff dedicated significant effort and resources to building a community of sustainable farmers.

 

 

Through various advisory roles for Vietnam Tourism Board, EU Chamber of Commerce, leading business, government bodies, NGOs and universities, Miquel expressed a major concern, “No matter how much we try to raise awareness, I believe tourism and hospitality should do and can do better when it comes to sustainability. Collaborating with government bodies, NGOs and partners within local regulations is also an important strategy to solve the problems.”

A standout moment at the conference unfolded during the mini-workshop titled “Role of Education in Food Supply Chain for Sustainability in Hospitality,” skillfully facilitated by Arthur Mossa, Country Manager and APAC Development Lead, and Ngan Ho, Startup Innovation Program Manager and Sustainability Consultant at Schoolab. The 75 participants were organized into eight groups based on their interests in specific topics: Production, Processing/Retail/Delivery, Consumption, and Food Waste Management. Each group engaged in a collaborative exercise, identifying challenges and proposing innovative solutions to enhance awareness about sustainable food practices within the community. The culmination of the workshop saw each group succinctly presenting their practical and creative ideas on a canvas in just two minutes, contributing significant learning and knowledge exchange value to all conference participants.

To empower businesses towards sustainable models, it is crucial to convey that sustainability is not merely a charitable act, CSR project, or a gesture of goodwill; rather, it presents a significant opportunity for businesses to enhance their business, increase profits, and support local communities.

Addressing concerns about the lack of resources for building sustainable businesses, particularly for start-ups and small businesses, Ngan Ho shared the importance of seeking community support for learning and advice and highlighted the availability of governmental and non-profit funds that actively support new eco-friendly projects.

On the other hand, for individual consumers, ethical, social, and ecological considerations, alongside economic factors, can directly lead to a reduction in food waste. Communicating and educating them is also a top priority for successful models.

Throughout the conference, speakers and attendees consistently emphasized the pivotal role of education in constructing sustainable food systems. From early childhood education to stakeholders in the entire food journey—production, processing/retail/delivery, consumption, and waste management—there is a unanimous agreement on the need to continuously raise awareness about the importance of sustainable practices. Building a collective belief in the values of sustainable food systems among future generations is crucial for creating a larger community that takes concerted actions for a greener future.

 

Conclusion

 

The recent ASSET-H&C public conference, themed “Sustainable Food System in Hospitality: Where to start?“, not only provided valuable inspiration and insights but also demonstrated the feasibility of adopting eco-friendly and socially responsible food processes with economic resilience. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the 75 participants, speakers, organizers, volunteers, and the dedicated staff from our 13 member schools who made this event a success.

During the Roundtable Discussion session at the conference, when questioned about their 2024 green goals, François responded with ease, “I don’t really know; the plan will be decided by the students themselves.

I witnessed positive shifts in perception and community engagement along this transformative journey”, Miquel concluded. Since 1999, Miquel Angel has been focusing on sustainable tourism development in SEA region, especially Vietnam.

On behalf of the organizer IECD and ASSET-H&C, Alix Watson, Southeast Asia Operational Director, also wrapped up the event with motivation: “As an international organisation spanning across Asian, European, and African continents, IECD aims to act as a linking platform for spreading best practices among its partners: companies of all sizes, educational stakeholders, local governments, and vocational training centers. This aspect lies at the core of our strategy for 2030.”.

The Q&A session, interactive workshop with group activities, and the delightful networking lunch at Sofitel Plaza Saigon provided opportunities for participants to actively engage. We trust that these experiences triggered the start of a sustainable journey for some participants and enabled them to connect and foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement within the community.

ASSET-H&C takes pride in contributing to the sustainability community through this event and looks forward to hosting many more. Stay connected with us on Facebook and Linkedin for updates on future events, and share this article with those eager to join us on the sustainable food journey.

Top Stories
On July 3rd, ASSET H&C hosted the 9th Get Together event, welcoming representatives from our network of 12 member schools. The focus of this workshop was to explore inclusive educational practices, particularly highlighting Steps' successful vocational center model for the neurodivergent community, and to inspire educational institutions to adopt similar practices to empower all learners.
July 8, 2024
The student leaders of the Eco-Committee at EHT shared their journey to obtaining the prestigious Green Flag Certification in 2023 —the first for any Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institution in Asia. They highlighted EHT's approach of integrating practical, hands-on environmental stewardship into their curriculum, preparing students to become proactive change agents.
May 22, 2024
Green Campus Initiatives – Insights from Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE) Quentin Bodiguel, the Environment Project Manager at PSE, took the spotlight to narrate PSE’s transformative journey into an EcoSchool. Armed with profound expertise in environmental projects and a zeal for sustainable development, Quentin offered valuable insights and actionable examples from his vast experience and the current green initiatives at PSE.
March 7, 2024
LinkedIn LinkedIn Facebook