Eco-Friendly, Eco-Food, Etiquette… What labels promise “eco-responsible” restaurant values?

They say they respect the seasons, buy direct from organic or local producers, put fish on their menus whose stocks are not threatened, sort their waste, track plastic and fight waste. Some of today’s chefs don’t profess to want to spoil the planet. To help consumers identify them, many private labels – Ecotable, Food Index For Good (FIG), Green Food, Etiquettable, etc. – have exploded onto the gastronomic scene over the past two years to distribute bonus points to restaurants that are greening their practice. It’s about time: a study by firm Utopies revealed in 2019 that only one in ten French people experienced restoration efforts in sustainable development.

But how can these labels know what’s really going on in the kitchen? What exactly is included in their specifications? How relevant are their indicators? How do they monitor their application? But also, who do they belong to and how are they financed? We’re not going to lie to each other, it’s hard to find our way around each other’s specs. When they are questioned, the person who will combine the most criteria, will rely on the most rigorous scientific studies, will conduct the most relevant audits, will have the most credible impact measurements. Real knock numbers. What about the facts? Keep in mind that this is above all personal initiative. This is not a flaw in itself, but it does mean that environmentally responsible restaurant labels do not offer the level of assurance that an official reference system would provide with transparent specifications, validated by public authorities and audited by independent agencies. body. There, it all happens a little bit between oneself that one sometimes wonders, even if their approach does change practice.

This too often lacks rigor in verifying leaders’ commitment. “However, while some restaurant owners get into this approach out of faith, others do it just to stand out,” warns three-star chef Régis Marcon. The feeling shared by Christian Regouby, general delegate of the Culinary College of France: “These private labels, issued against remuneration, too often tend to be used as a marketing tool to differentiate themselves. »

It is because this approach is unique that the restaurant owner, wishing to be certified, has to pay a contribution which varies from 100 €/year to 500 €/year depending on the case. This is a lot for chefs who already feel they are putting themselves at risk by taking steps for the planet, and must, besides, pay to tell… And at the same time, too little to finance the serious work of certified labeling. As a result, everyone is looking for their model, between associative status, consulting services, and partnerships.

At the risk of sometimes producing a nice mix of genres. “As long as we don’t establish an official label that limits, including on human issues in the workplace, it will be an open door to opaque and not very credible private initiatives”, said Xavier Hamon, director of the USPG (University of Gastronomic Science and Practice). Either way, it would be beneficial to put everyone on an equal footing. Instead Ademe (ecological transition agency) is working on it. “Based on experiments conducted in Brittany, the Agency is considering the feasibility of creating an approach of excellence based on a reference system compatible with European Ecolabel certification and aiming to involve caterers in the ecological transition”, explains Virginie Rocheteau, project manager at Ademe. The good news is that, beyond the environmental benefits, the Breton experiment shows that the measures implemented allow restaurant owners to gain an economic advantage. Linked to real social policies, even allowing them to differentiate themselves when it comes to hiring, a strong argument since the company’s reopening. In the meantime, here are our “test benches” of eight labels or initiatives that allow consumers to like the most committed restaurants.

Good for the climate, predecessor

Status: association created in 2014 by Jean-Luc Fessard.

Format: charter focused on carbon footprint (and therefore plant parts on the plate), seasonal and local produce. It brings together 200 restaurants, including about thirty active ones.

Economic model: membership fee of €100/year (€10 during the pandemic).

The +: association is one of the precursors. It provides its members with an eco-friendly calculator (developed by Etiquettable, see elsewhere) to measure the environmental impact of their dishes.

The -: leaders’ commitments are declarative only.

Eco-friendly, labels and advice on ecological transition

Status: a company created in 2019 by Fanny Giansetto, Camille Delamar and Rodney Paul.

Format: labels with three levels of commitment, from “transition initiated” to “model” through “advanced approach”. A total of 147 institutions were referred.

Economic model: the basic contribution to be labeled is 500 €/year. For a more complete support, it is necessary to calculate between 1000 and 1500 euros according to the size of the establishment.

The +: Ecotable provides a network of committed service providers to restaurant owners and has developed a platform to measure environmental impact.

The -: a blurred line between companies selling advice to restaurants and associations that promote, in social networks and the gastronomic scene, sustainable food.

Ethic Ocean, for sustainable fishing

Status: association created in 2006.

Format: charter for conservation of marine resources based on compliance with sustainability criteria (fishing techniques, stock status, etc.) signed by about fifty companies.

Economic model: signatories pay a €150/year subscription for species guidance and support.

The +: it’s a progress process: to be a reference from one year to the next, you have to make a new commitment.

Ethic Ocean is experimenting with a broader project called the “sustainable plate” that covers the supply, waste and recovery of biological waste.

The -: restaurant commitment is declarative.

Labelable, geo-located apps

Status: an initiative developed by Eco2Initiative, a consulting firm created by Shafik Origin and Rémi Marcus in 2006.

Format: a mobile app created in 2017 that allows consumers to geolocate from 910 referred restaurants. Companies that serve only meat are de facto excluded.

Economic model: the application benefits from a grant from Ademe initially. From now on, the economic model is based on supporting restaurants to speed up their transition.

The +: has developed an eco-friendly calculator to measure the carbon impact of restaurant menus.

The -: here again, the commitment of the leaders is purely declarative.

Food Index for good, point system

Status: association created in 2019 by Eva Genel and lise Baron.

Format: eco-friendly badge awarded after diagnosis covering many criteria, two of which are mandatory – selective sorting and vegetarian offer. A total of 220 restaurants were referenced.

Economic model: once free, labeling will be subject to a “symbolic” contribution. The association is linked by a partnership to the online ordering platform The Fork.

+: to keep the badge from one year to the next, you must be in the process of progressing and accumulating more points.

The -: analysis on the document, but no controls in place.

Framheim, anti-waste label

Status: A social economy and solidarity startup created in 2017 by Dominique Brechon and Vincent Dantonel.

Format: a label (whose name refers to the base camp of the first explorers to reach the South Pole) identifying restaurants committed to fighting food waste (portion sizes, short menus, initiatives to sell items, etc.). About 150 companies were referenced.

Economic model: initially, on-site diagnostics (waste volume assessment, identification of sources of savings, implementation of new measures, etc.) are billed €500/year. Then the start-up switched to remote auditing at a rate of €100/year.

The +: mandatory progress initiative to renew labels from one year to the next.

The -: due to the lack of an economic model, Framheim is looking for a partner.

Green Food, very strict label

Status: a company founded in 2018 by two entrepreneurs, Augustin Brahimi and Alexis Brochu.

Format: labels based on ten themes with two levels (confirmed and ambassador). To take advantage of this, restaurants must supply local and/or organic produce themselves, up to a minimum of 30%. Only 70 restaurants were referred.

Economic model: an annual fee of 450 euros which includes audits, stickers and references on the platform. The label also offers consulting services to support restaurant owners.

The +: the company conducts an on-site audit once a year to check that the charter criteria are still being respected.

The -: is so strict that there are no certified establishments in le-de-France, due to lack of sufficient organic and local supply…

Green star from the Michelin Guide, not a label but an upgrade

Status: green star launched in 2020 by the Michelin Guide (itself published by the tire group of the same name).

Format: this is not a label but a distinction that highlights the ethical and environmental approach of 81 restaurants in France (300 worldwide).

Economic model: the process is free for restaurant owners.

The +: the difference that drives chefs to make their ecological transition.

The -: evaluation at the discretion of the Michelin Guide inspector. There are no specifications because “every restaurant has its specialty”.

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