Compass Group adds environmental labels to meals served at workplaces

Catering giant Compass Group is introducing eco-labels to all meals served through its business and industry (B&I) arm in the UK and Ireland, in the hopes of encouraging workers to choose options with a lower environmental impact.

Compass Group adds environmental labels to meals served at workplaces

Image: Compass Group UK&I

The business announced this week that trials of the eco-labels at 15 sites served by its Eurest subsidiary were successful, meaning that it has developed plans for rolling out the labelling scheme across its entire B&I estate.

Compass Group has worked with researchers at the University of Oxford’s Livestock, Environment and People (LEAP) group to develop and introduce the labels, which give meals a grade from A to E based on greenhouse gas footprint, water impact and biodiversity impact.

Impacts across the value chain are considered, including farming, transportation and packaging, with Compass Group using data on an ingredient-by-ingredient basis from the Poore & Nemecek dataset.

During trials, the labels were promoted to workers with communications stating: “Can my choice really make a difference? Our food is linked to about one-third of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions, so your meal choices have a big environmental impact.”

As well as introducing the labels, Compass Group has introduced a larger range of plant-based dishes and altered where they are placed on menus and at catering counters, to make them more prominent.

“At traditional manufacturing sites, meat and two veg dishes have been a staple of consumers’ diets for some time, yet following the introduction of these subtle changes, we are seeing an increase in customers choosing plant-forward dishes,” said Compass Group UK & Ireland’s health and wellbeing director for B&I, Liz Forte.

“We have learnt so much through this partnership with the LEAP project at Oxford University. It’s been so exciting to be part of something that not only is driving healthier eating habits, but also has great sustainability benefits too.”

Forte added that Compass Group will explore how eco-labelling initiatives could be introduced beyond B&I partnerships in the future.

The business is notably aiming to switch 40% of its menu options to plant-based by 2030 – the date by which it has pledged to become a net-zero firm. 

Making the grade

Eco-labels have been something of a talking point in the sustainability space in recent months.

June saw the launch of a new labelling scheme from new non-profit Foundation Earth, developed in partnership with Oxford University. A string of big-name businesses across the UK and EU are set to trial the labels from this autumn, including Tyson, Nestle, Sainsbury’s, Costa Coffee, Marks & Spencer and VeeTee Rice. Nestle notably first revealed that it was considering adding carbon labelling to products in 2019.

Then, in August, Lidl GB announced plans to add eco-labels to its most popular own-brand product lines at its stores in Scotland this autumn.

Other food and drinks companies to have launched or expanded efforts to better communicate the environmental impact of products with shoppers in recent months include Upfield, which owns brands including Flora, and Quorn Foods.

Beyond food and drink, the labels are beginning to be added to products such as health and beauty products and ICT equipment, by brands such as L’Oreal and Logitech. 

Sarah George

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