For our second interview in ‘The Planet Mark Unsung Heroes of Sustainability’ series, we talk to Stephen Foster, transport supervisor at catering and food suppliers Bidvest Foodservice.
When Bidvest Foodservice transport supervisor Stephen Foster volunteered two years ago to head up the catering and food supplier’s sustainability activities in Wakefield, his biggest challenge was getting buy-in from his bosses. Now he runs a committee of eight volunteers and says the challenge today is how to manage all the fantastic sustainability ideas his team and other employers bring him.
Q. Tell us about what you are doing?
A. Here at our Wakefield distribution centre, we have been very busy over the past few months running several initiatives in line with our business sustainability plan. Most recently we have been fundraising for one of our key partners, the One Foundation, in order to raise £1,800 for deprived communities in Africa. We have nearly raised half of our target but there is still a long way to go. I am currently in discussions with our sustainability committee, deciding on what strategy to choose in order to achieve our target, so far we have had some fantastic ideas!
Q. What made you do what you are doing?
A. I was interested in the role of Sustainability Coordinator as I knew that this would be a challenging but rewarding role to take on. Rewind two years and our distribution centre was in its infancy and still overcoming the challenges associated with the opening of a new distribution centre. Initially, the hardest part of the role was getting buy-in from the leadership team down, but two years on the hardest part of the role is keeping up with all of the fresh new ideas our community keeps bringing to me.
Q. Why is it so important to you personally?
A. I believe it is very important to raise awareness about the impact our actions, as individuals and as a business, has on our communities and our planet. What we do now may not necessarily directly benefit us, but helps preserve our way of life for future generations. I genuinely have concerns about the quality of life my two young daughters may have later in their lives – we need to do our bit now and take appropriate action to preserve their futures.
Q. How does it make you feel? What are the rewards?
A. My role as Sustainability Coordinator gives me a great sense of pride, as Wakefield has come a long way over the past few years regarding its sustainable activity. The more we do for our people and our wider community the greater the sense of achievement. Engaging and giving back to different people throughout our organisation and our communities is a reward in itself.
Q. Are you seeing others influenced by your actions?
A. Two years ago, there was just myself heading up our sustainability activity. Now I manage a sustainability committee with around eight committee members. The committee members are from different levels and different department throughout our distribution centre. This good mix of people helps us come up with fresh new ideas, whilst each committee member is able to influence their own departments. This has resulted in an engaged workforce who have an open line of communication with our committee, enabling them to get involved and have their say on what Wakefield does next.
Q. What are the challenges?
Initially, the biggest challenge was to get people to buy into the sustainability agenda and to change the perception that sustainability is all about “planting trees”.
Sustainability doesn’t have to be a ‘thorn in peoples sides’ – it can be challenging, it can be fun and it is, most definitely, rewarding.
The next challenge was how to keep people engaged and keep fresh new ideas coming through. The challenge now is managing our sustainability activity so that people don’t get swamped with the different initiatives.
Picture: Stephen Foster baking a cake for charity One Foundation.