Sustainability Series: Heathrow becomes world’s first sustainable fish airport
Ethical retail is just as vital to airport sustainability as other terminal ops, but have you ever thought about how produce for the food and beverage outlets is sourced? Heathrow have…
Sustain – the alliance for better food and farming – has crowned Heathrow the world’s first ‘Sustainable Fish Airport’. The award is the outcome of an airport-wide initiative, involving all food and beverage partners across five terminals, from family-favourites to fine dining. Every partner at Heathrow has investigated the source of their seafood and committed to removing ‘red-rated’ fish (those considered the least sustainable by the Marine Conservation Society) within the year, ensuring a traceable, sustainable supply chain.
As Europe’s largest airport, catering to over 80 million passengers each year, the impact of this commitment is enormous – covering four million fish meals per year. More than 20 fish species are served across Heathrow, with tuna sold in more outlets than any other species and salmon coming a close second. Both of these have sustainability challenges, so businesses have worked to source from more plentiful stocks, more responsible farms, or caught by pole-and-line, a less destructive fishing method.
As part of this project, the Heathrow food and beverage partners are adopting a sustainable fish buying policy, and for some the influence of this initiative has already rippled beyond the airport itself. A number of national restaurant groups, including Yo! and The Restaurant Group (which operates outlets including Giraffe and Comptoir Libanais) have adopted the principles of the sustainable fish airport initiative across all their operations. This policy outlines a commitment to “avoid the worst” (remove red-rated fish from menus), “promote the best” (incorporate more sustainable fish species in dishes and menus) and “improve the rest” (find more sustainable sources of popular favourites).
Italian restaurant group Carluccio’s is introducing the public to some sustainable British seafood species that aren’t often on menus, including clams, mussels and crab. Delaware North was the first contract caterer to take the pledge within Heathrow and has already excluded all fish that isn’t given a good sustainability rating by the Marine Conservation Society.
This project is an outstanding example of cross-industry collaboration – involving 37 restaurants and cafés, Sustain, the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) and Heathrow’s senior management team all working together and sharing information over the past six months.
Yo! is the outlet with the widest range of fish species on its menu. Ensuring its most important ingredient is traceable and responsibly sourced has always been a priority for YO! Therefore, the 71-site restaurant group jumped at the chance to align with Heathrow’s initiative and has used the opportunity to make further improvements to the supply chain, across the whole estate.
Charlotte Whalley, Head of Customer Experience at YO!, said: “Ever since we opened our first YO! more than 20 years ago, we’ve been committed to serving responsibly-sourced fish and seafood. It’s wonderful to be part of a community of like-minded businesses at Heathrow: Sustainable Fish Airport, dedicated to preserving the future of our oceans.”
Commenting on the initiative, Ben Crowley, Head of Food and Beverage at Heathrow, said “Our partners have demonstrated outstanding commitment to delivering sustainable fish options to every passenger that passes through Heathrow, and we’re immensely proud to be able to offer travellers the very best, whilst showing that quality and taste need not cost the ocean. The full process to reach the accreditation has included revising the sourcing of family favourites, including cod and salmon, so that they meet the highest standards of sustainability; creating new dishes with delicious sustainable species, such as coley; and redesigning menus to make choosing sustainable options clear and easy.”
Ruth Westcott, Coordinator of the Sustainable Fish Airports campaign, said: “When businesses work together on sustainable fish sourcing, we can achieve great things. Congratulations to all the businesses involved. Visitors should be excited and proud that they don’t need to worry about where their fish comes from when they eat in Heathrow Airport. I am particularly proud of the businesses that have taken this opportunity to change the fish supplied across their whole business, not just the outlets in Heathrow. Heathrow have proven that airports can be a catalyst for change, and I look forward to the next airport that will step up to the plate and become leaders in tackling overfishing.”
Simon Heppner, Director of the SRA, which has been providing Heathrow with sustainability advice on a range of issues since 2013, said: “With over 80 million people passing through the airport every year, Heathrow has an important role to play in building awareness of the challenge faced by dwindling fish species, and how we can all make a difference. The willingness of all partners to engage with this collaborative effort and to make changes to their sourcing and menus has been great to see and I’m looking forward to the next challenge in making Heathrow a leader in ethical retail.”