Event report: Arena

Jon Davies of Levy UK and Ireland gave the keynote address at Arena’s recent sustainability-themed networking event…

More than 120 business leaders gathered at The Sofitel London St James Hotel recently for Arena’s Creating a Sustainable Future in Foodservice event. An inspiring and informative day, it explored how businesses and individuals are making a difference to environmental, social and governance in foodservice and its supply chain, and how they are implementing change and leading the way to build a better world.

Responsible businesses developing more sustainable operations are at the heart of the UK’s hospitality sector. And with the pressure of inflation and the cost-of-living crisis being on everyone’s minds, an event to explore these themes could not have been better timed.

The main attraction was Jon Davies, managing director of Levy UK and Ireland, who delivered a keynote address. It focused on the sports and leisure specialist’s recent partnership with sustainable packaging innovators Notpla, and the importance of engaging with suppliers to help activate change at a wider scale.

“Sustainability is not a tick box,” he said. “I believe if we show leadership in this space, it creates a purposeful company and hopefully a purposeful industry. We feed millions and millions and millions of people between us all, and if we all try and change the direction, there is a chance we can’t activate change.”

Davies provided a stark reminder of the environmental problems we face, highlighting that in the last 50 years alone, two-thirds of wildlife and 50% of insects and marine life have been destroyed; our annual consumption of fossil fuels has doubled; rates of diabetes have quadrupled and obesity tripled; and, most relevantly, annual plastic production has grown by 20% to 40%.

He moved on to focus on the power of seaweed, and how it can be a potential solution to protecting our oceans and reducing the industry’s reliance on disposable plastics, saying: “Seaweed is amazing. Our oceans are the biggest absorber of C02 in the whole planet. If we didn’t have them, we’d already be well over three degrees over our temperature rise, but they have reached a saturation point and become acidic, which is why coral is bleaching and marine life is dying out. We need to start taking carbon out of the ocean, and one way to do this is through seaweed, as it locks carbon into its natural structure.”

Davies then invited Pierre Paslier, founder of Notpla and winner of the Earthshot Prize, to the stage to talk more about their sustainable packaging. He explained how his company uses seaweed – one of nature's most abundant and fastest growing resources – to replicate the qualities of plastics, helping to replace millions of items of single-use plastic takeaway packaging.

With 9% of all of the plastic ever produced having been recycled and 12% incinerated, the rest lies in landfills or has been dumped into the oceans. However, the partnership has enabled Notpla to drastically scale up the speed, helping to turn back the tides on plastic pollution and reduce waste.

“Seaweed has been here a billion years longer than anything on the surface of the earth, so nature knows exactly what to do with it at end of life,” said Paslier. “It biodegrades and is part of the natural lifecycle, therefore we never create waste.”
The solution is currently used at major Levy sports and entertainment venues including The Kia Oval, Villa Park, Twickenham and Dublin’s Aviva Stadium. In the coming months, it will be rolled out to approximately 50 more event facilities.

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