Q&A with Hugh Lewis, Head of Sustainability at Gousto
We recently published our first-ever sustainability report, which is an annual commitment of ours since becoming a Certified B Corporation®. The report is packed full of our most exciting sustainability achievements in 2021 as we work towards our goal for every meal to leave the world better off.
We invited our Head of Sustainability, Hugh Lewis, to tell us a bit more about the report and sustainability at Gousto.
Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about your career at Gousto so far, and how you came to be Head of Sustainability?
I’ve been at Gousto for almost three years now. Most of the time, I’ve been heading up the Proposition Strategy team which focuses on innovation strategy, looking at how we can improve things for our customers.
Sustainability has always played an important role in our approach to innovation, and that has been growing over time. I’ve also become more and more fascinated with sustainability generally and the big challenges that we face within the food industry. I undertook the Business Sustainability Management course at Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership during one of the COVID lockdowns, which opened my eyes even further.
It made it an easy decision for me to make the move into leading the sustainability team at Gousto, which brings me to today.
And what does your role as Head of Sustainability entail?
The neatest summary is that we do three things: strategy, delivery, and engagement.
For strategy, we set the sustainability strategy, and develop business cases and targets to achieve our goal of ‘every meal leaves the world better off’.
In delivery, we monitor and drive progress towards targets via initiatives and teams across Gousto, and we also create the right conditions for a more sustainable Gousto, for instance making sure that we have the right data, tools, and operating model design to empower people around the business.
And for engagement, we engage with all stakeholders, listening, collaborating and advocating. We report internally and externally to advance transparency, and are involved in broader communication.
As the Head of Sustainability I’m involved with those three, as well as guiding how we improve processes and develop the team.
Why is sustainability important to Gousto?
Our purpose has always been to build an amazing product with a positive impact on people and the planet. This drives all our business decisions and actions. Sustainability has been central from the beginning as our very proposition is built to cut food waste from the system.
Sustainability was a really important factor for our founder Timo when he first conceived of Gousto. He saw the scale of food waste throughout the food system, and particularly in the home, which represents roughly 17% of total UK food waste. If you think about all of the inputs like fuel, pesticides, fertiliser, and energy needed to produce that food and get it to those households, it gives a sense of the kind of impact that food waste has in terms of carbon emissions, for instance.
By sending out pre-portioned ingredients to customers as in the Gousto model, we can reduce that 17% to almost zero and on top of that, we’re transforming distribution.
Around 40% of food is wasted in the traditional supermarket supply and consumption model. We have a much shorter route to the customer because we don’t have the retail stage and the level of food waste in our facilities is below 1% due to both the quality of our forecasting and also the redistribution of edible food surplus to those in need. This is one of the big contributors to our lower carbon output. When you run a comparative Life Cycle Assessment comparing Gousto’s model versus the supermarket model, Gousto reduces emissions by 23% for the equivalent meal bought from a supermarket store.
What are the key objectives of the sustainability strategy at Gousto?
As part of our overarching purpose, we have a goal for every meal to leave the world better off, which the whole business really rallies around. Beneath that, we have prioritised focus areas split between people and planet. I won’t go into the individual areas in detail, but we have objectives like offering healthier choice and inspiration, helping develop thriving communities, fighting food and packaging waste, and safeguarding the environment.
Health is a really big priority for us. Putting aside the enormous impact that obesity has on people’s health, it also places an enormous burden on the NHS here in the UK. I think there were over a million hospital admissions where obesity was the primary or secondary diagnosis in 2020, and that was up 17%. So Gousto has a really important role to play in that area.
We deliver eight million meals per month and we have the goal of tackling the barriers to healthier eating to make it much more accessible by helping with inspiration outside of the standard repertoire of recipes that we all have. Now that I cook with Gousto I, for one, cook a lot more vegetarian recipes than I used to, having grown up in quite a meat-eating household. Gousto also helps to reduce the time and effort of scratch cooking, meal-planning, shopping, and prep that is so time-intensive.
The sustainability report is packed full of amazing achievements. What are you most proud of in this report?
I’m going to make a difficult choice and choose just one, which is the 424,469 meals that Gousto donated to those in need via FareShare. It’s a huge credit to everyone involved that we’re able to have such a positive social and environmental impact.
If I could tag on a point about breadth, I love that we have achievements across such a wide range of areas, and Gousto’s B Corp certification in August last year helped us to validate this as well as suggest where we need to focus.
But this is just the beginning! It’s nice to reflect on achievements and a massive thanks goes to everyone involved, but there’s also so much more to come and that’s where we’re focusing our energy.
Why was the B Corp certification important to achieve at Gousto?
Because of our purpose, B Corp was something that really resonated with us before we started on the process. We wanted to become certified to hold ourselves accountable to that commitment to growing in the right way for people and the planet.
In addition to that, B Corp is a well-respected, comprehensive, independent framework that has the momentum to become even more of a leading certification in the area. When we were first looking into it in earnest at the end of 2019, there were about 2,750 B Corps. Now there are over 5,000.
There are plenty of benefits besides the framework and certification. There’s the wonderful community of B Corp businesses. There are the working groups on hot topics like food waste and packaging and regenerative agriculture. There’s also the fact that you can use the framework to inform your sustainability strategy and it’s a fantastic way of engaging employees and attracting new talent.
Lastly, what’s your favourite dish on the menu?
(Partly because it gives me an opportunity to shamelessly plug it) it has to be a lowest-carbon dish from the new Carbon Cutting Cuisine collection; Vegetable Noodles with Silky Cashew Nut Sauce.