How Foodsteps helped Compass Group UK&I become the first food company to align to The Transition Plan Taskforce

Andrew StephenAndrew Stephen

By Andrew Stephen

Case Studies
{1} min read

Once every 4 years we get a 29th of Feb. Fortunately, evidence of food companies taking progressive climate action now comes around a little more often.

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Yesterday we saw a true first. Compass Group UK&I, (the largest caterer / foodservice business in the UK) unveiled their Transition Plan at their Climate Summit in London.

Since the publication their Transition Plan on Wednesday 28th Feb 2024, Compass has become the first food company to produce a report aligned with the UK Transition Plan Taskforce.

Foodsteps delivered some of the data underpinning these numbers. This included analysing Compass’ food and beverage purchases, and 25,000 (and counting) of the recipes they serve across schools, healthcare, government, business and hospitality.

We’ve gone into enormous detail behind these figures (1.7 million lines of data and over 31,000 items), using a volume based analysis.  

We would hopefully predict that this will become the new normal (along with SBTi) for how food companies speak to financial and sustainability focused audiences.

However for me, the more important lesson for other food businesses can be found in the following numbers:

  • Over the last 5 years (FY19 baseline) Compass UKI have reduced their absolute emissions by almost 10%.
  • They’ve done this despite growing the business by over 20%.
  • Meaning their carbon intensity (tco2e / £) has come down by 25%.
  • This amounts to -162,828 tCO2e reduction in emissions attributed to purchases of food and drink.
  • 25% of 8,004 centrally analysed recipes now have A-B rated footprint

This is hard evidence that it has already been possible for the past 5 years to decouple growth in a food business from spiralling CO2e emissions, whilst serving 214 million meals a year across 4,000 locations and procuring £1.4 billion of goods.

Foodsteps carbon rating boundaries as showing the Compass Transition Plan

So what of the future?

As we look forward from 2023 being the first year in which the global average temperature rise exceeded 1.5 degrees (no really), the urgency with which all businesses need to combine bravery, analysis and creativity to their business plan couldn’t be clearer.

The food system is still a leading contributor to climate change (it alone will bust our global carbon budget), and biodiversity loss. Food businesses are also some of the least resilient to the effects. For far-sighted companies, the penny is finally dropping. Their ability to grow and maintain shareholder value depends on decoupling from activity that drives the climate and nature crisis.

The Compass UK&I Transition Plan Exec Summary

Compass’ Transition Plan stopped short of including a short term emissions reduction target for the next financial year, but does set a commitment to a whopping 55% reduction by the end of 2025, and 72% by 2030. In 2024, it’s clear the focus will be on menu reformulation, buying less high impact ingredients, and incorporating key supplier data.

Every part of Compass needs to build menus for change if this is going to be realised. We’ll need to step change the confidence Compass has in supplier environmental data and see through the array of unquantifiable claims. We’ll need to equip every chef with the knowledge and ingredients to create more desirable, more healthy, great tasting dishes within the planetary boundaries. We’ll need clients to step up to the plate and put incentives in the right place.

Compass feeds us at school, at work, at the weekend, and when we get sick. If in those environments, A-rated dishes achieve rapid sales growth, and become best sellers then we’ll achieve the level of decarbonisation required by the plan.

If we all partake in eating lower impact meals, then Compass can achieve their vision. If Compass can do this, then any food business can too.

Join the companies who already use Foodsteps@ to measure, report and reduce their environmental impact.