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Climate-Impact Menu Labels: A New Planning Tool

Increasingly, meeting professionals are tasked with lowering the carbon footprint of their events. The banquet menu is one place to make quick progress.

If a meeting venue labels its banquet options with sustainability data, would that impact your meal choices?

That question has become more relevant to planners as food-environmental data experts such as HowGood and FoodSteps work with venues, restaurants, and other food businesses to reduce and then communicate their food’s carbon footprint.

Research on climate-impact menu labels has proven their effectiveness with consumers. A study conducted in 2022 and published on the American Medical Association’s JAMA Network found that when certain menu items were labeled as having a high impact on the environment (i.e., those containing red meat), consumers were 23 percent more likely to select a more sustainable option.

The study underscores people’s tendency to make sustainable choices if presented with data that helps them to understand their options. And that’s the driver behind a new program at the ExCeL London exhibition and convention center. Together with its catering partner Levy UK + Ireland, the center has partnered with Foodsteps to help reduce the carbon footprint of the millions of dishes it serves at events every year.

Foodsteps is now providing ExCeL with detailed, U.K.-specific data on the lifecycle footprint of menu ingredients, allowing in-house chefs to design lower-carbon recipes. In addition, the venue is rolling out Foodsteps’ customer-facing labelling system (below), which rates menu items on a scale from A (very low carbon impact) to E (very high) in order to help event organizers and visitors make more climate-conscious choices.

“Partnering with Foodsteps allows us to better support our clients and customers, and it demonstrates why the menu is such a powerful and important ally for meaningful change,” says Kevin Watson, business director & net-zero lead at Levy UK + Ireland. “Focusing on better data so our chefs and operational teams are informed, empowered, and recognized for the positive impact they can have in every single service, is what we’re trying to achieve together.” 

In addition to the new efforts with Foodsteps, the center and Levy already have plant-based options on at least 50 percent of its menus, source 100-percent recyclable or reusable packaging, and have reduced kitchen food waste to under one percent. ExCel also uses 100-percent renewable electricity and sends zero waste to landfills.

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