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Consumers are demanding increasingly more engagement on sustainability from hospitality operators, according to the latest edition of the Future Shock report.

The sixth issue of Future Shock, produced by CGA in association with UKHospitality, includes data from CGA’s BrandTrack survey of over 5,000 consumers on environmental and ethical issues across restaurants, pubs, bars and hotels. It reveals that more than four in five (83.1%) people now expect the hospitality brands they use to engage on at least some aspects of sustainability.

Consumers’ number one concern is ethical sourcing of food and drink—something that nearly two thirds (64.6%) expect to see now. Around half want to find environmentally friendly packaging (53.9%) and evidence of reduced carbon footprint through menu engineering and commodity usage (50.3%).

CGA data in the Future Shock report also confirms that significant numbers of consumers are prepared to pay extra for sustainable practices. Two in five (40.6%) say they would spend more for ethically sourced food and drink, and decent numbers would pay a premium for environmentally friendly packaging (25.2%) and a reduced carbon footprint (22.7%).

However, 43.4% of consumers say higher costs cannot be justified by measures like these, which presents operators with a tough choice: to absorb the costs of investment in sustainability or pass them on to consumers and risk a hit to sales.

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls commented: “Sustainability is arguably the key issue of our time. It will become more important and hospitality needs to lead efforts to promote sustainability yet further.”

Consumers are challenging hospitality businesses to respond to many more big sustainability-driven changes, Future Shock shows—like a rise in vegan and vegetarian diets and the increasing avoidance of single-use plastics like straws and cups. But the report also recognises extensive investment in sustainability across the hospitality sector, supported by UKHospitality and its work with government.

Karl Chessell, Business Unit Director, Food and Retail at CGA, said: “Our research for this edition of Future Shock highlights the mounting importance of sustainability in consumers’ choices and behaviour. The environmental impacts of restaurants, pubs, bars and hotels are under intense scrutiny, and all operators will need to demonstrate a genuine commitment to sustainability as we enter the new decade.

(source: CGA/UKHospitality)