Scaling sustainably with Eurest and Compass

Catering 10 min read

How Eurest and parent company Compass are successfully cutting their carbon footprint as they grow

Rees Bramwell is the Head of Nutrition and Sustainability at Eurest and 14Forty, the Business and Industry arm of Compass Group UK & Ireland. 

As part of Compass, Eurest and 14Forty are working towards a shared goal of reaching Net Zero by 2030. Not only is that the most ambitious Net Zero goal in the catering industry – but they might just be on track to hit that target a few years ahead of schedule. 

For Food Waste Action Week, we sat down with Rees to talk through how they’re supercharging their progress to Net Zero – with a focus on the innovative steps Eurest are taking to fight food waste as part of that. 

During our chat, we covered everything from balancing growth with Compass Group’s green focus, to the rare silver bullets in sustainability. We also spoke about how food waste sits neatly in both the sustainability and social impact strategy workstreams, and how Olio is helping with that.

Could you tell us about Eurest and 14Forty and the work you do with your clients?

Rees: “At Eurest and 14Forty, we do catering and facilities management for workplaces up and down the UK – from distribution centres to call centres and offices. 

And that could be anything from just vending machines to full catering services offering hot meals, and everything in between. I’m head of Head of Nutrition and Sustainability across the two businesses, which sit underneath Compass as our parent company.” 

What does sustainability look like at Eurest and 14Forty? 

Rees: “We’ve committed to achieving Net Zero by 2030 across scopes 1, 2 and 3.

To do that, we’re working across the value chain – starting from our supply chain partners to reduce emissions , right through to when that food is delivered to sites and how our kitchen teams work with it.  

A huge bulk of the work happens in these two areas, but right at the end we’ve got waste, which we analyze forensically. We’re trying to reduce waste from every angle – and that’s really a necessity for us from a social, environmental and financial perspective.” 

Cutting carbon emissions by nearly 10% in 4 years – without compromising on growth

Net Zero by 2030 is a pretty ambitious goal. How’s that going?

Rees: “Yes – it is. It’s the most ambitious in the catering industry. And it’s going really well – our Net Zero goal has been incorporated into everyone’s role, which means it’s everyone’s responsibility to hit that target.

We’ve recently released our Compass Transition Plan, too – which sets out our  strategic direction to achieve our goal, factoring in other holistic environmental targets. We also released our  annual Compass Group UK progress report back in February, and it was great to see that although we grew as a business by 20% last year, that hasn’t compromised our sustainability progress. We’ve still managed to cut carbon emissions by 9.4%. 

And because of that rapid growth, we’re looking at emissions from a perspective of carbon intensity – so how much carbon we’re emitting per pound we spend. This is a more reliable metric when we’re growing at the speed we are, and we’re at 25% emission intensity reduction. Given  our plans to continue that growth, this is going to be the most important thing to track.” 

Leading the way to Net Zero with a transition plan that’s the first of its kind 

Congratulations – that’s some really impressive progress. Can you share more detail on Compass’ transition plan, and what’s included within that? 

Rees: “We’ve got 6 pillars that we look at within the plan:

  • Water footprint
  • Biodiversity
  • Deforestation
  • Carbon
  • Packaging
  • Waste

And those 6 pillars inform every decision that we make within the business – and making sure that we’re not solving one problem and creating another!

As well as our Climate Promise, we’ve also got our Social Promise to support a million lives by 2030. And that really ties into our food waste goals – you’ve got to factor in the social responsibility we have there too.”

Are there any other innovative ways you’re tracking progress towards your sustainability goals? 

Rees: “I think it’s worth mentioning our food waste dashboard here, which we’re really proud of. 

In B&I, across our 800 units,  we use menu management software called The Source to measure portions served and also what exactly we’re wasting. We even go as granular as to look at trimmings and peelings. That all feeds into our food waste dashboard, and that allows us to look at how we’re doing as a whole, but also on a site-by-site basis too. 

“There aren’t many silver bullets in sustainability, but food waste might just be one of them – it’s a total no-brainer”. 

Our dashboards are a prevention measure, but it’s also a really useful training tool for chefs and kitchen teams, to help us support them in wasting less. 

And Olio’s reports help us track the additional bit, which is the redistribution phase. We bring the two reporting streams together to measure our progress, so we have no blind spots and a full 360 view on food waste. 

For example, we know that just across Eurest and 14Forty, we donated 10,000 meals to the local community near those sites last year. There aren’t many silver bullets in sustainability, but food waste might just be one of them – it’s a total no-brainer.” 

How are you embedding sustainability within the Compass culture? Have you found any quick wins to engage staff with the sustainability strategy you’ve laid out? 

Rees: “In lots of cases, teams may not be motivated by the higher corporate level Net Zero goals, so we have to make it real for them. Let’s take food waste for example. We can bring that to life by thinking about the financial implications, the resources that are wasted, or the people that could have eaten it. We just try to make it as human as possible – I think then, you’re hard pushed to find someone who doesn’t care. 

“We just try to make it as human as possible – I think then, you’re hard pushed to find someone who doesn’t care” 

Whether you’re a massive foodie or not -food is such an integral part of everyone’s life. It’s highly personal. If we can treat the food we waste in our kitchens like the food we waste at home, we can create a connection.

We’ve also implemented some smaller touches that don’t feel too mandated or judgemental, that are easy for people to get behind. We’ve got an app called Giki which allows employees to roughly measure their own personal carbon footprint, and look at how they can make positive lifestyle changes. Through those sorts of initiatives, we can get across that this is a journey that we’re all on.”

Are there any sustainability wins that you’re particularly proud of? 

Rees: “Without a doubt it’s our food waste, especially at Eurest and 14Forty. Our Managing Director is so passionate about it, so we have weekly and fortnightly calls at every single level of the business to discuss that.

Compared to our 2020 baseline, we’ve reduced our waste by 47% over a period of 4 years. Our dashboard has helped us work that out. And at Compass, we’ve got goals to half food waste by 2030. Because of how well we’re doing, we’re going to try to aim to achieve that by 2025 across B&I. We’ve been so thorough, and we’re really proud of the results we’ve seen – we just need to keep the momentum up!”

How does Olio tie into all the sustainability and social impact work you’re doing?

Rees: “In our line of work, we want to have enough food available to serve our customers, so to a degree, there is always going to be an element of surplus.

And we felt so uncomfortable with that ending up in the bin, so we knew we needed to find routes to redistribute that. In some areas, we can find local charities, but that just doesn’t work at scale. So Olio helps us solve that problem in a way that’s consistent, and gives us a way to measure the impact of that redistributed food consistently, too. 

“Olio just makes the whole redistribution process easy

And Olio is so simple and user-friendly, too. If we didn’t have Olio as a central point of contact coordinating volunteer collections, we’d be having to rely on our employees to really go the extra mile to arrange that, which wouldn’t be fair to expect from every site. So for us, Olio just makes the whole redistribution process easy. 

Plus, lots of our employees are from the local area, so as well as feeding into the sustainability work we do, it helps our teams see that we really care about making a difference.”

Is there anything that has exceeded your expectations from working with Olio? 

Rees: “It’s probably the simplicity. And I know from our sites that there’s generally really good relationships with the volunteers, which ties into what I was saying about sites being invested and connected to the local area.

The reporting is a huge bonus, both to have sight of what’s happening in terms of our impact but also as a way of identifying areas for improvement.”

What would you say to anyone who was concerned about the food safety element of redistributing food through a service like Olio?

Rees: “I’d say it’s a very valid concern, and I do understand that sometimes sites can have worries. 

But with Olio, it’s been simple. It’s developed over time – we did start off pretty cautious, as you can imagine! But as the relationship has grown, we’ve got more confident. We have a really clear guide that Olio has helped us create which reassures sites on what they can and can’t donate, and how food needs to be handled. 

There have been iterations of that guide, so it’s now pretty detailed. As a catering business, food safety is one of our top priorities, so it’s been great that we’ve found a way to get sites confident in doing that via an iterative process. 

I’m really pleased about that, because Olio isn’t just a way to reduce food waste – it sits really nicely across both our sustainability and social impact initiatives.”  

You can read Compass FY23 progress report here and their Climate Transition Plan here. You can also read more about Olio and Compass’ work together here. 

Want to learn how Olio could help your catering business work towards your Net Zero and social impact targets? Get in touch today.