Destination: sustainability

Destination: sustainability
Duncan Gray
31/05/2017 - 07:50
Food and support services company, Compass Group UK & Ireland, believes it is on the right road to sustainability, as head of corporate responsibility Duncan Gray explains.

With our latest Corporate Responsibility Repor, we have set ourselves a series of targets that will guide us to becoming a truly sustainable company.

Divided into four pillars – sourcing, people, environment and health – the report represents the hard work already done and the hard work we still need to put in.

As the UK’s largest contract caterer, we have considerable buying power, and we want to use that as a force for good. We have outlined a series of targets on transparency and responsibility in sourcing, including phasing out the use of eggs from caged hens by 2025.

This target has been set to enable us to establish and audit a new supply chain for these products, and we hope to meet it ahead of schedule. Another target is to publish a Human Rights Action Plan, with the aim of continuing to address the risk of modern slavery.

Trading ethically is also high on our sourcing priorities. We firmly believe in offering the farmers we buy from a fair deal; every banana and bag of sugar we buy from the developing world is fairtrade. Similarly, as the hot-beverage market continues to grow, we have committed to buying tea, coffee and hot chocolate from only ethical sources by 2020.

We’ve also identified a range of categories where we know our buying practices can make a positive difference. These include milk, fish and beef, as well as non-food items like paper and uniforms. An example of how we’re delivering this is that all our milk is Red Tractor.

Giving suppliers fair opportunities is really important, as are the opportunities we provide for our own people, and, in 2016, we announced that we were going to commit more investment into our apprenticeship programmes, with the aim of increasing our apprentice starts from 500 to 1,500 by the end of 2017.

We are passionate about delivering high-quality training programmes for our apprentices and know how much value these can bring to the individual and our business. Our partnership with specialist provider Jigsaw to support our in-house training and deliver external accreditation for our apprenticeships ensures we are increasing not only our quantity but also our quality.

We recently launched our ‘Women in Food’ programme, becoming the first food service company in the UK to tackle the shortage of female chefs, setting ourselves the goal of having a 50/50 split of male and female chefs by 2020. We’ve created a Women in Food board to help implement our strategy to increase the number of female chefs and support them.

We must all contribute to combating climate change and human-made damage to our planet, and our report outlines our vision to reduce food and packaging waste, committing to a 10% reduction in food waste by 2020.

We know we’re already above the industry average for generating less food waste, but we can do more. We’ve committed to the Courtauld 2025 agreement, which is to achieve a 20% reduction by 2025 – so our target will set us in good stead to reach our overall goal five years later.

To tackle food waste, we have partnered with Winnow, trailing ‘smart scales’ across the business. Any food waste is put into a bin on a special set of scales and logged, developing reviewable data for the head chef to consider and help them to shape improvements.

The pilot schemes we ran were really successful, so we’ve outlined a plan to roll-out the technology to around 500 sites across the country.

Where food waste is unavoidable, we have partnered with the food charity FareShare to pass on surplus food products. The charity works with those less fortunate to distribute food that is still in date and useable – they have 20 regional centres and once the food is delivered to them, it’s redistributed to some of the 5,500 charities they work with.

The final part of our CR programme is dedicated to health and making commitments to inform and help our customers make healthier choices.

Overeating is perhaps the most widespread problem we face today; the obesity epidemic is a huge threat to public health – something we want to help tackle head on.

As part of our 2020 Health Strategy, we have committed to removing 40m calories from our main meals. Little changes can make a big difference, such as changing to smaller salt sachets in restaurants or swapping to 1% fat milk.

We have also committed to ensuring every restaurant offers a balanced meal option of fewer than 500 calories and contains one of the recommended five a day portions of fruit and veg, which we advertise as such to customers on our menus, making it really clear what the healthier options are.

Raising awareness of healthy options to our customers is incredibly important. Our new health and well-being website,, launched in February. It provides people with somewhere to get information on a range of health and well-being topics such as sleep, lifestyle and diet. It gives consumers access to recipes that have been nutritionally analysed, plus people can chat to our expert team of nutritionists, asking them for advice and help.

Our 2016 CSR report stands as a marker in the sand – an outline of the programme that we’ll operate our business by over the coming years.

The targets we’ve set ourselves show our commitment to being a responsible, sustainable business, and we’ve got exciting times ahead as we work towards meeting them.

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