State of Green Business

Compass Group adds sustainability software to the menu

Practical Magic

Compass Group adds sustainability software to the menu

[Editor's note: This is the first installment of a new column called [email protected]. Each month, GreenBiz Senior Writer Heather Clancy will explore how companies are using technology to advance their sustainability goals and improve competitive advantage.]

Compass Group is spicing up its menu with a software application that helps chefs and kitchen managers decrease waste disposal and reduce their energy and water consumption.

The $12 billion global food services management company uses a web-based tool called the Carbon FOODprint, which was developed by FirstCarbon Solutions and piloted in 12 locations over the past year before a general rollout in late March.  

Its ingredients include thousands of data points from deep within the food industry supply chain that gauge the impact of menu choices, appliances, procurement policies, packaging and disposal methods on an operation's carbon footprint.

By comparing their own metrics against those benchmarks, chefs and managers can get a sense of how their business practices measure up against other operations.

What's more, they will receive customized menus of 185 strategic choices they can make to reduce their own environmental impact and, by extension, operations costs. Those suggestions could include changing up their menus, such as reducing the beef portions, or rethinking how kitchen equipment is used by perhaps turning off ovens, processors and other appliances when not in use.

The tool certainly isn't mandatory, but it is unique among food service management companies. Early adopters include enterprise software developer SAP, as well as Auburn University and Green Mountain College. Compass manages approximately 9,900 locations globally across corporations, higher education and healthcare facilities. It believes Carbon FOODprint will differentiate its services among organizations that have made sustainability a priority.

"The rollout is really focusing on the top, those businesses and clients that have those values," said Marc Zammit, vice president of sustainability initiatives for the Charlotte, N.C., company. "There's an opportunity for us to work together to get there."

Carbon FOODprint builds on FirstCarbon Solutions' Sustainability Workbench platform, which companies can use to organize information for reporting or disclosure under public programs such as the Carbon Disclosure Project. It covers Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 exposure. The developer consulted closely with Compass to customize the dashboards.

The initial setup takes about two hours to define the metrics appropriate for their individual organization. After that, chefs and managers will need to spend about 30 minutes per month updating data about their operations and menus. But generally speaking, most reports are automated and information about each café's purchasing habits are loaded automatically under their Compass management contracts, said Chet Chaffee, director of supply chain and life cycle assessment for FirstCarbon Solutions, based in Irvine, Calif.

"Chefs and managers are extremely busy people," Chaffee said. "Their jobs are to serve people food."

Compass expects most organizations to focus initially on managing the costs and environmental impact of water consumption and waste disposal. A more difficult thing to address is too many high-footprint items on menus, Zammit said.

"The toughest area is when they realize that they have too much beef on their menu," he said. "But the toolkit doesn't ask them to remove them, it makes suggestions for reconsidering portions ... or avoiding beef when you've got a burger on the grill. When you offer ideas and solutions, then the conversation becomes easier."

Compass clients will pay a small fee for Carbon FOODprint to cover licensing costs. Zammit hesitated to estimate how many locations will embrace the technology in the short-term.

"I am really hoping that we can hit 15 percent to 20 percent of our operations," Zammit said.

Image by bogdan ionescu via Shutterstock