Sustainable solutions

Sustainable solutions

From food to financial investments, a small-scale sustainable approach can have a big impact. We talk to Grantley Hall’s Michelin-star chef Shaun Rankin, Phil Harris, executive director at Brown Shipley and AJ Singh, executive director at Quintet who is part of their sustainable investment team, to find out more.

What does the food industry and finance have in common? On the surface, not much. Yet, when approached with a sustainable mindset, both can have a hugely positive impact on the planet. ‘Many of our clients have done well with investments so creating more wealth isn’t always the driving factor. They want them to do some good in the world,’ explains Phil Harris, executive director at Brown Shipley. ‘We used to have an opt in process where we would ask clients if they want to add on ethical investments; now we start with a sustainable portfolio so it’s more of an opt out. Why wouldn’t you want to do this? Research shows that lots of companies with a high sustainability agenda are pretty good and tend to profit more. It’s an investment decision but one that we start from day one.’

We speak to Phil from the opulent dining room of Grantley Hall, a grand 17th-century country house that reopened as a hotel in 2019 after a £70 million, three-year renovation. He is visiting at the bequest of Grantley Hall’s owners, friends of Quintet, and a source of inspiration for Phil’s vision of sustainable investment. 

The idea of making the sustainable choice the norm is evident throughout Grantley Hall. Environmental planning was intrinsic to the renovation project from the get-go: the hotel has its own water source which drives the low-energy heating system, the kitchen garden supplies the three restaurants and all produce is sourced within a 30-mile radius. ‘It’s a beautiful stately home but the progressive sustainability innovations throughout, including the technology used to reduce water and energy usage, makes staying here a very 21st-century experience,’ continues Phil.

Phil’s guide for the day is Chef Shaun Rankin. Shaun was brought onboard as a consultant to make the sustainable food vision a reality, designing all the kitchens across the estate from scratch and organising operations (for instance, supplies arrive in crates or glass containers rather than plastics). Now he runs Shaun Rankin at Grantley Hall, the destination fine-dining restaurant which scooped a Michelin star in 2021.

‘Six months before opening, we started foraging, pickling and fermenting, so we were able to get ahead of the game for the development of the menu,’ he recalls. ‘We take a very seasonal approach to food. We don’t buy any fruit in from outside the UK. Not olive oil, lemons, limes – nothing. We make our own acids, create our own vinegars and preserve everything so it’s all natural,’ continues Shaun. His local-first food philosophy was developed over years spent working in restaurants all over the world where he learnt the importance of celebrating high-quality, homegrown ingredients. ‘One thing that’s really paramount, especially in European countries, is their ability to buy, shop and grow locally. The heroes of the show – growers, foragers, fishermen – work hard to give me amazing ingredients and we’re really lucky in Yorkshire that we have the best of everything on our doorstep.’

Shaun Rankin, Michelin-star chef at Grantley Hall
We take a very seasonal approach to food. We don’t buy any fruit in from outside the UK.

Phil Harris, Executive Director at Brown Shipley
Being very passionate about something – whether wealth or a legacy – and wanting to hand that down, is a common theme with my clients.

It’s not just British ingredients that he showcases in his signature Taste of Home menu but inventive techniques too. ‘I have to make sacrifices for my food philosophy but they’re good sacrifices in a way,’ he says. ‘When you spend 30 years in the kitchen you have a repertoire of recipes learnt from chefs you’ve worked with and techniques from around Europe. By not using ingredients from around the world or dishes associated with other countries such as ravioli, it makes the job a lot harder. Instead of using something in the repertoire, we’re creating a new dish every time we change the menu. Every day we think about the next ingredient, the next dish and where we can push it.’

Central to Shaun’s philosophy is passing on his expertise to the next generation of upcoming chefs. ‘The chefs who work for me are learning all the skills to produce food from what’s here in the UK,’ he says. ‘They’re learning about solid British ingredients, how they can get them and what they can do with them. In the future they can move that idea forward.’ Similarly for Phil, who specialises in the intergenerational transfer of wealth, this idea of sharing knowledge is key. ‘When I met Shaun’s team, what was interesting was the passion that he has instilled in his chefs. Being very passionate about something – whether wealth or a legacy – and wanting to hand that down, is a common theme with my clients.’

Often with wealth, one of the main concerns is about how to pass it on and there isn’t masses of information out there – which is where Brown Shipley comes in. ‘About 80 percent of wealth doesn’t get past the third generation. The first generation creates the wealth; the second generation usually looks after it because mum and dad are around; then the third generation typically spends it and that’s what people often want to prevent,’ says Phil who returned to university to research the subject so he can better advise clients. ‘From a planning angle the advice would often be to give large amounts of money away early and avoid inheritance tax but by doing this there is a risk of it being lost,’ he continues. Instead, he recommends a more cautious, sustained pattern of giving over a period of time so the younger generation gets used to having wealth.

The closeness of families also plays a part. ‘When families are distant, that’s when wealth typically disappears,’ says Phil. ‘At Grantley Hall for instance, three generations were involved in the restoration and creating that legacy.’ While Shaun doesn’t see his way of cooking ever being rolled out on a large scale, his legacy comes from educating – whether that’s his chefs or the diners who gain more knowledge about British ingredients through eating in his restaurant. ‘I think people are more understanding about where everything comes from these days; they tend to shop differently now, supporting local shops and growers. I can only see it as the start and I think that within a generation there’ll be more pockets of what we do out there.’

Joining Phil and Shaun is AJ Singh, part of Quintet’s sustainable investment team, for whom many of the initiatives at Grantley Hall resonate with his own team’s efforts. ‘In 2022 Quintet will source 100% of our electricity from renewable (or equivalent) sources. We have committed to eliminating all plastic consumable products, such as plastic food containers, bottles, screws and stirrers from our premises, since 2020. And we walk the walk by using the same philosophies in our personal lives,’ he says, citing the carbon footprint tracker challenge as an example of the company working together at a local level to take part in activities (such as cycling to work, eating vegan once a week) that reduce carbon.

Having a local presence and building up lasting relationships (much like Shaun does with his chefs and repeat diners) is also what makes Quintet Private Bank stand out from the financial investment crowd. ‘We do feel that as a sustainable private bank, we have a high affiliation with millennials who stay with us for a longer period,’ continues AJ. This comes down to trust, says Phil, who believes it’s just as important in the food industry too. ‘A lot of the way we report on food at the moment is around how much salt or other additives it contains, and in investments it’s how much return you get on your money. Going forward, I think that there will be more reporting on the carbon footprint of both.  As people gain knowledge in these areas, it will probably help to drive behaviour.’

AJ agrees. ‘As part of the Farm to Fork (EU Green deal), there are proposals for a sustainable food labelling framework to empower consumers to make sustainable food choices. There is a real problem with transparency and consistency.’

There’s also, thinks Shaun, an issue with the industry’s carbon footprint. ‘In Scotland for instance, they land so much seafood it’s phenomenal but it’s flown out without touching the shores of the UK.’ Of course, we have already seen baby steps in the right direction: he cites the big four supermarkets who endorse and name local farmers, sell some vegetables loose rather than in plastic packaging, and showcase items that don’t make the cut, such as wobbly carrots. ‘All these things are having a slow impact but there’s still so much to do, it’s crazy.’ Ultimately then, whether in the food industry or finances, it comes down to making personal sustainable choices that invest in the future of the planet.

AJ Singh, Sustainable Investing Strategist at Quintet
...there are proposals for a sustainable food labelling framework to empower consumers to make sustainable food choices.

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