By Samantha Lees

When it comes to tackling sustainability challenges in the food industry, landlord engagement might not be the first thing that comes to mind for most. Yet here at Food Made Good, we’ve been working with Henderson Land Group, one of the largest real estate developers in Hong Kong, on designing and delivering the bespoke Landlord-Tenant Engagement Programme to enable their tenants to explore and implement new sustainability initiatives. 

We spoke to Ricardo Moneton, the award-winning chef and founder of the highly-acclaimed restaurant MONO, one of the participating tenants of the programme, about his thoughts on the programme and about sustainability in Hong Kong.

Sustainability has become a fashion, everyone talks about it but no one really knows how it is executed

Why is sustainability important to you and to Mono?

“We try and do our part and do what we think is the right thing to do in our little restaurant. Hong Kong is a challenging environment because we import nearly everything, and people’s living standards are high, for example they have air-conditioning everywhere. But we try to work with certain people that are hands-on solving sustainability issues around the world. One of those is ZeroFoodprint. They work with small farming communities which (help restaurants) reduce their carbon footprint. How it works is we charge a 1% donation of our (customers’) bills which goes to ZeroFoodprint to offset carbon emissions in the restaurant’s operations.”

“We also try to do our own things, like consume less water, turn off the air-conditioning in the colder months in Hong Kong; and if we can find farms that operate organically and sustainably then we try purchasing from them as much as possible.”

In fact, sustainability has been a key pillar since the beginning of MONO. They constantly looked for ways to use recycled materials when building the restaurant, source MSC-certified seafood, work with a local farm for herbs, and use the Nordaq tap filtration system instead of purchasing bottled water.

Why did you decide to join the Landlord-Tenant Engagement Programme?

“I think it’s a great initiative for a real estate developer to make the call to create awareness by doing this programme with all their tenants. And especially coming from a giant real estate developer, it is very impressive.” 

“I hope they won’t just stop here but will keep working with organisations like Food Made Good to push their tenants to do better in their sustainability efforts and in taking care of the environment.”

Photo: www.mono.hk

We cannot do this alone

What is one main thing that you have learned from the audit? Was there anything asked in the audit that you weren’t expecting?

“One of the things that we learned from the audit is our lack of internal preparation and awareness, and a lack of training within the staff. We always share about the food, the concept and philosophy and so on, but (when it came to) the subject of sustainability, taking care of the environment and choosing the right way to do things, we never shared that with everyone. We always source the best ingredients that are the most sustainable, but we never tell our staff why we do that.

“As the head of the restaurant, you may have these thoughts in your mind but if you don’t share them, that’s a problem. That’s the first thing that (the audit) taught me, and it opened our eyes. We cannot do this alone. A restaurant is successful financially and has the accolades because you shared that vision with your team. Imagine if you also shared your vision for sustainability, you’d be very successful in that area as well.”

How do you influence your staff?

“The way to influence staff in a restaurant is to talk about food, because we work with food every single day – for a living and for our passion. Firstly we need to treat food with respect; secondly make the most of all the food that we have and reduce food waste; and third, we really need to consider the farmers who are producing this food, all the work going into growing organic food without pesticides…And finally there’s also the impact that’s caused by transporting this food to restaurants from all around the world, the emissions and many other issues relating to food.

“If you are a foodservice professional you will be interested about that. If I talk to staff about global warming because of CO2 emissions, that’s not personal, they won’t understand.”

Photo: www.mono.hk

We do our part, so the landlord needs to do theirs too

What are your expectations for this project?

“I think it will be very interesting for example if the landlord has many buildings with a lot of restaurant premises, to see how the landlord can help collect food waste to make compost for farms in the New Territories, or do a plastic recycling campaign. I see buildings in Hong Kong that have garbage areas on every floor, and you separate your garbage – glass, plastic, paper etc., but then you see the guy in the building’s disposal room putting all the separate materials in a single container. We do our part, and the landlord needs to do theirs not just by doing recycling properly, but letting us survey the proper handling of this garbage or compost afterwards.

It’s important to learn about the problems we have here, because I’m part of this society

Is there anything else that you enjoyed about this programme that you would like to mention?

“We live in a world where we think we know everything or have (access to) all the information in our hands, but information can mislead people. So this programme can help you to be informed, to open your eyes to things that you didn’t know before. And it was fun.”

“It was particularly important for me because I’m not from Hong Kong, so it was very interesting to learn more about what’s happening in Hong Kong and the problems that we have here, because I am part of this society.”

To find out more about MONO, visit https://www.mono.hk/