Cafes and Sustainability: Gaining stars

The Sustainable Restaurant Association website

The Sustainable Restaurant Association website

A key part of the project I am currently working on explores the extent to which cafés act as community spaces, and the different ways that cafés engage with their local communities. So it was great to see that the Sustainable Restaurant Association have launched a Café Programme which as outlined in the SRA Press release, calls for cafes to’go beyond the beans’, and demonstrate their efforts to operate as sustainable businesses.

The programme provides cafés who join as members with a comprehensive assessment of the café’s sustainability based on 14 areas grouped under three categories:

EnvironmentWithout coffee there would be chaos

  • Water Saving
  • Workplace Resources
  • Waste Management
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Supply Chain


  • Community Engagement
  • Treating People Fairly
  • Healthy Eating
  • Responsible Marketing

SourcingCoffee latte art

  • Environmental Positive Farming
  • Local & Seasonal
  • Ethical Meat & Dairy
  • Fair Trade
  • Sustainable Fish

Depending on the scores in each of these categories, cafes will be given a score and a rating of one, two or three stars. You can find out more about it SRA Cafes. As you can see there are whole host of ways in which cafes can make efforts to become more sustainable, and it’s great to see that community engagement has been included here. The new rating system will allow cafes to demonstrate their efforts to be more sustainable beyond their sourcing of tea and coffee. As highlighted in Lunch Business recently:

“The growth of the UK independent coffee shop and café industry, now boasting more than 6,500 sites, has coincided with heightened and more sophisticated consumer interest not just in the provenance of their coffee, but in wider environmental and social issues.” Source: Lunch Business (2015)

The Sustainable Café Rating Survey was launched at this year’s Caffé Culture Show. At the show, the co-founder of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, Henry Dimbleby was on a panel hosted by the BBC’s Radio 4 Food Programme presenter Sheila Dillon who highlighted that:

“as many cafés and coffee shops are replacing pubs as the heart of communities, the SRA’s move into the café sector is both timely and welcome. For the first time, millions of people, like me, will be able to choose cafés that are not just serving great coffee, but playing their part in a much bigger drama.” Source: RSA, 2015)

I’m interested in finding out about this drama, about how the café industry has grown in recent years, the roles that cafés play in communities and the extent to which they are transforming our urban spaces and communities, and our consumer habits. It’s great to see a programme that acknowledges these efforts and will help inform consumers about their choice of café in the future.

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