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Sustainability in foodservice

Paul Bracegirdle, Environmental Manager of Sodexo UK and Ireland, describes how Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow Plan is helping to cut carbon emissions through more sustainable meals and food waste reduction.

Sodexo, a leading global services company, providing catering, cleaning, asset management, security and laboratory services, among other services, launched its Better Tomorrow Plan (BTP) in 2009. The BTP addresses the company’s worldwide sustainability strategy to 2020. It consolidates Sodexo’s sustainability performance and provides a framework to measure the impact of its actions worldwide. Through this ten-year sustainable development strategy the company is committed to continuous improvement adopting a challenging but robust and structured approach.

Sodexo’s mission is to improve quality of life for the people it serves and to contribute to the economic, social and environmental development of the areas where it operates. The BTP helps to address this mission and is built around three pillars: ‘We Are’ - which embraces the company’s values and ethics, ‘We Do’ - which sets out 14 commitments to action on sustainability challenges and ‘We Engage’ - which recognises the dialogue and collaboration required to translate commitments into action. The 18 commitments within ‘We Do’ relate to health, nutrition and wellbeing, local communities, supply chain and the environment.

"Sodexo has been engaged with conservation charity World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to develop an industryleading methodology to calculate carbon emissions with the group’s entire supply chain."

One of the main focus areas within ‘environment’ is a global target to reduce carbon emissions by over a third (34%) by 2020. This commitment was set out following a 5 year period of consultation and exploration, in which Sodexo has been engaged with conservation charity World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to develop an industry-leading methodology to calculate carbon emissions with the group’s entire supply chain.

In order to achieve the reduced emissions, Sodexo is concentrating on several key areas of action: reducing food waste, working with our 10,000 plus suppliers worldwide to reach the marketplace with more environmentally responsible products, increasing deployment of energy efficiency interventions and integrating low-carbon renewable energy sources into its energy management offers. This programme is based on measurements completed in 14 countries and on pilot studies at 5,000 client sites.

In the UK and Ireland, Sodexo is committed to reducing its own impact and that of its clients in three key areas: energy and emissions, water and effluents and materials and waste. One of the biggest areas of environmental impact is food and so the company is looking at methods of improving food sustainability. Sodexo serves around one million meals a day in schools, hospitals, workplaces, sports stadia, army barracks and prisons. It therefore has huge potential to promote more sustainable food options and to ensure it takes action to eliminate food waste. It is making strides in these areas through two innovative projects.

Green & Lean – sustainable meals

As part of Sodexo’s global partnership with WWF, Sodexo UK and Ireland is supporting LiveWell, WWF-UK’s flagship programme, which aims to encourage businesses and policymakers to facilitate the adoption of diets that are both healthy and sustainable. A typical Western diet is high in animal protein and heavily processed foods, which can have SUSTAINABILITY IN FOODSERVICE damaging consequences both for health and the environment.

Rearing livestock uses significant amounts of natural resources, such as land and water, and is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Producing just 1kg of pork, for instance, releases around 31 times as much carbon dioxide as producing 1kg of potatoes. At the same time, obesity rates in both the developed and developing worlds are soaring as people shift away from eating wholegrains, fruit and vegetables towards heavily processed, convenience foods containing high levels of sugar, salt and saturated fats.

WWF experts and Sodexo chefs have jointly developed a set of 10 sustainable meals, which are being piloted in Sodexo’s independent school contracts under the banner ‘Green & Lean’. The meals align with LiveWell principles and objectives set out in Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow Plan to ensure they are nutritious, lower-carbon and that the ingredients are responsibly sourced. For example, plant-based foods have to account for at least two thirds of the volume of each meal, refined grains are replaced with whole grains and meat and fish must have relevant certification, such as MSC or RSPCA Assured. The meals have been deliberately designed to be appealing and popular and include favourites, such as beef lasagne, chicken and leek pie and Lancashire hot pot.

Following the pilot, Sodexo intends to market the meals under the Green & Lean brand to other clients in the schools and universities sector and within its corporate services business, which provides employee restaurants to some of world’s biggest companies.

LeanPath – food waste monitoring

Food waste is a huge issue for the foodservice sector. WRAP estimates that the UK hospitality and foodservice industry wastes 925,000 tonnes of food a year, the equivalent to one in six meals served, and that 18% of food purchased in the sector is thrown away.

As a founding signatory of the UK Hospitality and Food Service voluntary agreement, launched by WRAP in 2012, Sodexo has been working towards the industry target of cutting food and packaging waste by 5% (or approximately 100 million meals) by 2016 and increasing the amount of food and packaging waste that is recycled, sent to anaerobic digestion or composted to 70%. In the UK and Ireland, currently 43% of Sodexo sites are recovering food waste. The company’s target is that 60% of sites will recover food waste by 2016.

"LeanPath is an electronic smart meter which enables kitchen staff to track, monitor and reduce food waste using a tablet device."

With support from WRAP, in the last few months Sodexo has trialled LeanPath, an innovative food waste monitoring system. LeanPath is an electronic smart meter which enables kitchen staff to track, monitor and reduce food waste using a tablet device. The database allows kitchen staff to select food from 70 different categories and then to select the reason why it was discarded. This gives kitchen staff a very clear understanding of which types of food are being wasted, why and at what financial cost. The granularity of this data means that chefs and catering teams can produce tangible actions to combat food waste at their sites, for example cooking less of certain dishes or looking at portion sizes, and can estimate the financial benefits of doing so. Sodexo ran food waste pilots at three of its sites in the defence, university and corporate services sectors. The sites saw a 23 gram reduction in food waste per cover during an 8 week period, which represented a 16% reduction in waste. The trial revealed the potential to save approximately 8.3 tonnes of waste and to save £25,000 in food procurement costs per annum across the three sites.

Following the pilot, Sodexo has implemented LeanPath on a permanent basis at seven of its higher education and defence sites, with another three sites going into mobilisation. It is also awaiting approval to launch LeanPath at several other sites and this approach is being included in new business bids.

These are examples of innovative projects that are driving sustainability and greater efficiencies into the business and helping Sodexo work towards its carbon reduction targets in a practical and tangible way.

Paul Bracegirdle, Environmental Manager, Sodexo UK and Ireland, One Southampton Row, London, WC1B 5HA, UK
Tel: +44 (0)203 116 4355 

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Founded in 1966 in Marseilles, Sodexo is a leading global services company, providing catering, cleaning, asset management, security, laboratory services and grounds maintenance to companies, employees and individuals. It serves over 75 million customers every day and is the 18th largest employer in the world with 419,000 employees in 80 countries.

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