External catering costs. Part 2: The environmental costs of catering in three company restaurants

Which food products can company restaurants use to quickly increase the sustainability of their product range? To find out, we have illustrated the environmental costs of the climate impact of the catering product range in three different company restaurants. We provided specific recommendations for sandwich fillings, cold drinks and meat that company restaurants can implement immediately. To calculate the environmental costs, we analysed procurement data from the caterer Hutten for three company restaurants. We engaged with commissioning parties and Hutten in connection with products that have a high climate and environmental impact, and jointly looked at how they can make their product range more sustainable.

Sandwich fillings, meat/fish and milk
The environmental costs of the products purchased by the three company restaurants amounted to about 18%. Sandwich fillings have the highest environmental costs because they contain a lot of animal products, namely processed meats and cheese. It is notable that the environmental costs of cheese are roughly the same as processed meats. Milk also has high environmental costs.

Insight through environmental pricing
This study shows that those products in the catering product range that have the largest environmental impact in a company restaurant can be identified on the basis of environmental pricing. We calculated the environmental impact and expressed it in terms of environmental costs by multiplying the weight by an environmental price for each product group. We expect the results of this study to be similar for other company restaurants. Other company restaurants can therefore take action based on our findings.

Recommendations for commissioning parties
Consider freeing up an extra 15-20% of the purchasing budget to invest in sustainable product chains or purchase less environmentally damaging food.
Communicate that ‘vegan’ food items are many times better than consuming animal protein and also explain that cheese is no better than chicken or pork.
Stop providing free milk. Instead, provide a few pitchers of water that could be flavoured with fresh lemon, fresh mint, ginger, etc.

Recommendations for caterers
Create awareness among commissioning parties, and include an extra 18% in offers and conversations about environmental impact and any targets for reducing environmental impact.
Select a product range based on plant proteins instead of animal proteins as much as possible. For instance, offer a vegetarian croquette instead of a beef croquette.
When offering meat, give preference to chicken or pork over beef.
Adjust products to reduce their environmental costs. A potentially beneficial measure could be to fortify beef products, such as filet americain or burgers, with plant-based ingredients. In-depth analysis shows that this measure can reduce environmental costs by 50%.

This project is part of a larger project: the Multi-Year Programme Experimenting with True Pricing, funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (Ministerie van Landbouw, Natuur en Voedselkwaliteit). Other publications in this project are:
Part 1: Specific tips for catering contracts
Part 3: Experiment with paying environmental costs in company restaurants (expected in 2023)