Chefs record ingredients used and meals created, and donate unused supplies to a food charity ©Compass Group
Chefs record ingredients used and meals created, and donate unused supplies to a food charity ©Compass Group

Case study: cutting food waste in the supply chain

Compass Group Australia partners with charity organisations and works closely with suppliers to make good use of surplus food

When you’ve catered for 1,000 guests at a corporate dinner and only 800 turn up, you’re left with ingredients for 200 meals that are at risk of going to waste. That’s one of the reasons why contract catering firm Compass Group Australia has partnered with non-profit OzHarvest to distribute surplus food to foodbanks and charities.

The cost of food waste is estimated at $20bn a year in Australia, and in 2016 the government developed a national food waste strategy that aims to halve the amount of waste by 2030.

“We are the largest food service provider in Australia. We purchase about 50,000 tonnes of fresh food a year,” says Andrew Brightmore, executive director of supply chain. Part of the global Compass Group, the Australian division supplies to many industries, from fine dining for five star restaurants, to corporate events, schools, prisons and remote offshore locations. “An organisation this size has to take the mantle in leading in lots of areas, especially in social responsibility,” says Brightmore.

The supply chain team initiated the partnership with OzHarvest, explains Brightmore. “We set ourselves a target of finding out what we can we do on top of existing programmes to truly drive sustainability and CSR across our business.”

The focus on sustainability is a core business strategy for the brand. It has developed awareness campaigns and training for staff in operating environments to encourage waste reduction, and menus are designed to minimise waste. Brightmore explains: “The whole operation is constantly monitored to keep it lean, efficient and flexible.”

Compass has created its own software and tools so kitchen staff on site can weigh and record ingredients used and number of meals created, and the central team can log in and see what is surplus.

The partner sites contact OzHarvest whenever there is suitable food waste to be collected. The charity, which operates mainly in cities, takes as much food as possible, and reports back to Compass on what has been collected and how many meals have been distributed. This helps Compass improve food ordering and menu planning.

The partnership started in February last year, launching to the firm’s strategic suppliers. “The supply base embraced it quickly,” Brightmore says.

In remote locations, Compass encourages waste reduction on site and uses innovative composters to cut out long distance shipping of waste.

Cribbing with care

In remote Australian mining communities, Compass has been running a campaign to encourage employees to use sustainable alternatives to their plastic lunch containers (cribs). “We want to raise awareness of the need to reduce waste,” says Brightmore. “And we hope that they will take the message back home too. We want to change the dynamic so that we reduce the need to recycle plastic packaging.”

While raising awareness within the communities, Compass is also working with industry to find the best biodegradable solutions, and there are plenty of innovative companies working on ideas, he says. “There is a whole breadth and depth of alternatives on the horizon.”