Sustainable Office Catering

Minimising the impact of our food habits, including catering, on the environment is essential in reducing our carbon footprint. In this article, we’ll go through some criteria to look out for when choosing an office caterer and give you some recommendations for the best sustainable caterers in the UK.

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Food-related activities are one of the biggest sources of global greenhouse gas emissions, so to minimise our impact on the environment, it’s important to take small, conscious steps to change our habits around food. One of these steps may be to switch to a sustainable office catering company.

In this article, we’ll go through some criteria to look out for when choosing an office caterer and give you some recommendations for the best sustainable caterers in the UK.

Why should you use a sustainable caterer?

Food, including agriculture, processing, packaging, transport, and retail, is responsible for 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Half of the world’s habitable land is used for farming and agriculture accounts for 70% of global freshwater use. Agriculture is also the largest single cause of deforestation and severe forest degradation. What’s more, around a third of the food we produce is wasted. If we stopped wasting food altogether, we could reduce human-caused greenhouse gas emissions by up to 8%

The catering industry contributes to this worrying picture. Each year, the industry produces 21,000 tonnes of food waste in the UK. This creates 52.5 million kg of CO2 emissions, which is equivalent to driving over 160 million miles. 

By using a catering company that actively aims to minimise their impact on the environment, you’ll be reducing your own carbon footprint. You’ll also be lending your financial support to a sustainable business, and in this way, driving positive change in the catering industry.

What is sustainable catering?

Sustainable caterers aim not only to provide a quality catering service, but also to minimise their impact on the environment while doing so. Here are some criteria to be aware of:

  • Locally sourced food: transporting food within, to, and around the UK produces 19 million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year — that’s equivalent to driving over 57 billion miles! For this reason, most sustainable caterers aim to keep the distance that their food travels from field to fork low by sourcing their produce as locally as possible.
  • Eco-friendly tableware and packaging: by 2050, ocean plastic will outweigh all of the ocean’s fish and plastic will be responsible for 13% of the global carbon budget. Many sustainable caterers use recyclable, reusable, or biodegradable tableware and packaging instead of single-use plastic as much as they can. 
  • Minimal food waste: as much as 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with wasted food. Many sustainable caterers minimise the waste they produce and send to landfill by composting or recycling their inedible waste and redistributing their edible surplus food. 
  • Low-emission deliveries: without intervention, CO2 emissions from delivery traffic will increase by 36% over the next decade. Some sustainable caterers aim to reduce their carbon footprint by using low or zero-emission vehicles, like electric vans and cargo bikes, to complete their deliveries. 

It’s hard to find office caterers that meet all of these criteria because the majority of catering companies are small businesses with limited budgets. However, there are many that perform well on some of these criteria and are constantly striving to do better.

If doing the research on sustainable office caterers in your area sounds overwhelming, we’ve got you covered. Read on for our recommendations for the best sustainable corporate caterers in the UK. 

Image source: Unsplash

Best sustainable office caterers in the UK

CompanyLocationSources as much food locally as possible?Uses recyclable/ biodegradable/ compostable packaging?Minimises food waste?Zero emissions or low emissions delivery vehicles?
HelloFreshThroughout the UK
Sands CateringLondon
Karma CansLondon
Eden CaterersLondon
FooditudeLondon
Grazing FoodLondon
Pure.London
bartlett mitchellLondon
Simply LunchLondon
archLondon
ArtizianMainly London and the South East
FeedrLondon, Manchester, Dublin
EatFirstLondon, Birmingham, Manchester
Really DeliciousGlasgow
Kate’s KitchenBristol
The Vegetable DivaBristolThey are packaging-free
PJ tasteSouth Yorkshire and North Derbyshire
The Lunch PeopleSurrey

HelloFresh

Where: Throughout the UK

What they do: HelloFresh offers corporate meal kit packages of pre-portioned ingredients with a minimum order of 50 boxes. 

How they’re sustainable: HelloFresh is the first global carbon-neutral meal kit company. They prioritise local, seasonal ingredients as much as they can and they’re committed to reducing their use of plastic — between 2019 and 2020, they cut their plastic use per meal by 50%. By providing ingredients in exactly the amount needed, they minimise food waste, and they further aim to reduce their food waste per euro of revenue by 50% by 2022 from 2019 levels. You can read more about their sustainability commitments and performance in their 2020 Sustainability Report.

Sands Catering

Where: London

What they do: Sands Catering offers office and business lunch deliveries as well as corporate event catering. 

How they’re sustainable: They source their food locally as much as possible and present it in your choice of recyclable plastic tableware, China plates, or artisanal wooden boxes. They’re committed to sending zero waste to landfill, so they compost their food waste and redistribute edible food to the local community using Plan Zheroes.

Karma Cans

Where: London

What they do: Karma Cans is an office and events caterer.

How they’re sustainable: They aim to source everything as locally, seasonally, and responsibly as possible. None of their meals include red meat or endangered fish, and they offer a variety of vegan and vegetarian options. Their food is made to order and delivered by bike in a single compostable or recyclable container, without cutlery, napkins or bags. 

Eden Caterers 

Where: Central London

What they do: Eden Caterers is an office and events caterer. 

How they’re sustainable: They’re one of only a few catering companies in the UK that have been awarded the highest possible Food Made Good rating of 3 stars by the Sustainable Restaurants Association for their sustainability initiatives. They use local, seasonal ingredients as much as possible and use only sustainably sourced, MSC-certified fish. They don’t buy single-use plastics and only use bioplastic or recycled plastic packaging. They compost all their food waste and send zero waste to landfill. You can read more about their sustainability commitments in their Sustainable Development Policy

Fooditude 

Where: London

What they do: Fooditude offers both one-off and contract corporate catering to offices with at least 50 employees. 

How they’re sustainable: As a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, they are committed to constantly improving their sustainability credentials. They use local, organic produce as much as they can and in 2021, they aim to source 25% of their ingredients from within 100 miles of central London. Their packaging is compostable and they send zero food waste to landfill, working with the food-sharing app OLIO to redistribute their edible surplus food. So far, this partnership has saved 848kg of food from going to landfill and an associated 3,654kg of CO2 from being emitted — that’s equivalent to driving 11,144 miles! You can read more about their sustainability initiatives in their Sustainability and CSR Policy.

Grazing Food

Where: London

What they do: Grazing Food is an office caterer, offering both one-off deliveries and contract catering. 

How they’re sustainable: 90% of their food produce comes from the UK. Though their website doesn’t specify if their packaging is reusable, recyclable, or compostable, 100% of their waste is recycled or turned back into energy and they send nothing to landfill. Every year, they donate over 10,000 meals to FareShare to minimise their food waste. They also use electricity from 100% renewable sources to power their HQ and 75% of their deliveries are completed on zero emission cargo bikes, saving 2 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year. That’s equivalent to driving 6,100 miles!

Pure.

Where: London

What they do: Pure. is an office caterer as well as a restaurant chain. Their catering boxes can feed up to 12 people. 

How they’re sustainable: Their beef, chicken, salmon, dairy, eggs, and coffee is sourced from within the UK, though they haven’t explicitly committed to locally sourcing as much of their produce as possible. Their catering boxes are biodegradable and all their plastic and paper packaging is recyclable. They send zero waste to landfill and they donate their leftover food to local charities to minimise their food waste.

bartlett mitchell

Where: London

What they do: bartlett mitchell is a workplace contract caterer that can also deliver prepared box meals or meal kits for teams to cook at home. 

How they’re sustainable: They were the first contract caterers in the UK to be certified by PlanetMark for measuring and reducing their carbon footprint and to be awarded the Food Made Good rating of 3 Stars by the Sustainable Restaurant Association. They source their produce locally and seasonally as much as possible and all their packaging in the BM Delivered range is recyclable. They measure their food waste and have committed in their Environmental Policy to minimising their use of disposable materials, fossil fuels, energy, and other consumables. 

Simply Lunch

Where: London

What they do: Simply Lunch is a sandwich supplier, Food to Go and lunch platter company that can also offer workplace and contract catering. 

How they’re sustainable: They source their ingredients from within the UK wherever possible. They recycle all their cardboard and plastic and aim to be plastic-free by the end of 2021. In 2020, they sent zero waste to landfill and all their food waste was collected and converted into energy at an anaerobic digestion plant. They deliver their food using low emission vehicles and ensure that their vehicles are rarely empty to reduce their fuel usage. By the end of 2021, they aim to have reduced their carbon footprint by 10%. Download their Sustainability Report from their website to find out more about their performance and future targets. 

arch

Where: London

What they do: arch is an office caterer. 

How they’re sustainable: They’re committed to reducing their carbon footprint by 10% every year and their menu is seasonal and mainly plant-based. All their ingredients are sourced from within the UK and Europe. Their packaging is biodegradable and reusable and they minimise their food waste using recycling and preservation techniques 

Artizian

Where: Mainly London and the South East, but they have clients across England and in Scotland

What they do: Artizian is an office caterer. 

How they’re sustainable: They aim to source their produce seasonally and as locally as possible. They use exclusively British dairy and eggs, ensure all their fish is sustainably sourced, and buy traceable raw meat. They are committed to not wasting any food, though it’s unclear how they plan to achieve this. They also aim to reduce their single-use disposable waste by reusing as much as they can and recycling the rest. 

Feedr

Where: London, Manchester, Dublin

What they do: With Feedr’s Cloud Canteen service, you can give your team an allowance to order their own meals and everything will be delivered at the same time. They also offer event catering and a Click and Collect service for offices with onsite restaurants. 

How they’re sustainable: Feedr doesn’t source and prepare their food themselves — that’s their vendors’ responsibility. This means they don’t have total control over their food sourcing and sustainability, though they aim to work exclusively with vendors with strong sustainability policies. All their vendors source their food sustainably in some way — this may mean locally, seasonally or 100% organic. They also all use packaging that is a minimum of 90% recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable. Feedr shares advice on food waste reduction with their vendors, some of which are already partnered with redistribution platforms like OLIO. 

EatFirst

Where: London, Manchester, Birmingham 

What they do: EatFirst is a platform that allows you to filter by occasion, date, budget, and cuisine to find a corporate caterer that suits your needs. 

How they’re sustainable: Like Feedr, EatFirst aren’t responsible for food sourcing, but they try to work with suppliers who prioritise the environment and aim to hold them to account on sustainability. Their suppliers use locally sourced ingredients as much as they can and are encouraged to use recyclable, compostable, or recycled catering trays, cutlery, and napkins. They subject all their suppliers to a sustainability survey and use the results to calculate individual 5 leaf sustainability ratings. You can read about the criteria that they use for this rating here

Really Delicious

Where: Glasgow

What they do: Really Delicious is an office and events caterer. 

How they’re sustainable: They are committed to giving preference to sustainable suppliers over cheap ones, 95% of their suppliers are based in Scotland and all their meat, fish, and dairy are sourced sustainably and ethically. They have swapped their single-use plastic packaging for compostable vegware where possible and reuse as much of their packaging as they can. They compost all their food waste and work with Olleco to convert their used cooking oil into biofuel. 

Kate’s Kitchen

Where: Bristol

What they do: Kate’s Kitchen is an office and events caterer.

How they’re sustainable: Their menu is seasonal and they buy local, organic produce as much as possible. Their packaging is not 100% recyclable, reusable, or biodegradable, but they aim to reduce their use of single-use plastic. They redistribute edible surplus food to homeless charities and recycle all inedible food waste so that it can be used to generate renewable energy. Their primary transport vehicle is electric and they use an electric trailer bike for their smaller deliveries. 

The Vegetable Diva

Where: Bristol

What they do: The Vegetable Diva is a vegetarian office and events caterer. 

How they’re sustainable: They source their food seasonally and locally — they even harvest some of their own produce! They are a plastic free business and they update their menu often to ensure that they minimise their food waste. They also complete their deliveries by bike. For these efforts, they’ve been awarded the Food Made Good rating of 3 stars by the Sustainable Restaurants Association. 

PJ taste

Where: South Yorkshire and north Derbyshire

What they do: PJ taste is an office and events caterer.

How they’re sustainable: Their ingredients are sourced locally in the south Yorkshire and north Derbyshire area and they also grow some of their crops themselves. They compost all their organic kitchen waste and minimise their food waste using portion planning and preservation techniques. They also carry out their deliveries using electric delivery vans, which are charged using solar energy. However, they haven’t found a recyclable, reusable, or biodegradable packaging solution, and have been transparent about the difficulties they’ve encountered in their attempts to ditch single-use plastic. 

The Lunch People

Where: Surrey

What they do: The Lunch People is an office and events caterer. 

How they’re sustainable: They use local suppliers wherever possible and prepare their food using seasonal ingredients. They have swapped single-use plastic cups, plates, napkins, and cutlery for biodegradable and compostable versions and don’t use cling film in their buffets. Their platters and lids are also reusable and they compost their food waste.

Image source: Unsplash

Conclusion

If you can, consider switching to one of the catering companies listed in this article. However, we may not have mentioned a company that operates in your area, as it’s hard to find sustainable office caterers throughout the UK. Don’t worry if this is the case; you can always contact the catering company that you use to ask about their environmental policies. It’s also worth checking if their work for you can be made more sustainable in any way, for example if they can bring their food to you in reusable containers. In the short-term, this will reduce your carbon footprint. In the long-term, it will hopefully push them towards becoming more eco-conscious generally.

Sophie Comninos
Author: Sophie Comninos

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