Compass Case Study Brings Solutions for the Food-Carbon-Water Nexus to the Table

Guest Author | May 1, 2013

By: Chris Gassman

After my summer as an EDF Climate Corps fellow at Compass Group North America (Compass) and years collaborating with the Net Impact network, I have become increasingly interested in the market discussion around the intertwined challenges of climate, water and food. You may have heard it referred to as the water-energy-food security nexus.

Like many companies in the food industry, Compass saw this as an issue relevant to its clients, its customers and ultimately the business viability of foodservice. With over 9,000 cafes across the U.S. though, the number and diversity of Compass sites made this issue quite tricky.

The challenge: Technical and other complicated issues varied widely by geography and cafe setup, but ultimately needed to be measured to be managed. So Compass teamed up with EDF Climate Corps, Food Service Technology Center, Green Restaurant Association and most recently FirstCarbon Solutions to develop a solution that was implementation-friendly, customizable and backed by metrics.

Carbon Foodprint ToolkitThe Solution: After two years of iterative develop-feedback-refine cycles with diverse stakeholders, Compass conducted case studies this year with pilot cafes to vet the dollar- and eco-impact potential of its Carbon Foodprint Toolkit, a Web-based tool that allows clients to build a step-by-step strategy for lowering the carbon footprint of foodservice operations.

The results: The numbers are in, and they are impressive.  For the Chief Finance, Marketing and Energy/Environment/Sustainability Officers out there, the metrics are clear that “this makes perfect business sense.”

While that in and of itself addresses those intertwined challenges of climate, water and food (in addition to the highly interrelated issue of waste), the Toolkit goes one step further to break down the silos that often hamper change. By building this solution with the ultimate target audiences in mind – Compass operators, clients and customers – this approach empowers those individuals to be part of the solution, which embeds sustainability into the fabric of everyone’s role.

Environmental Leader recently published a piece on this, and the buzz continues to spread.  As part of its ongoing dialog and collaboration with industry peers, Compass is hoping that by shedding more light on this intertwined challenge, more food companies will join the discussion table. And I personally hope they do – if they don’t, we might all be on nature’s menu.

What questions are you bringing to the table about your foodprint?

Chris Gassman was an EDF Climate Corps fellow at Compass Group in 2010, and he has continued to help Compass with the rollout of this Toolkit in the years since. He is now the Commercialization Manager for Management & Legal Associates, LLC.  In addition to his work growing Fortune 500s and startups sustainably, his research focuses on translating complex ideas such valuing ecosystem services into actionable management frameworks.­