ExCeL London to launch carbon labelling for food menus

London’s largest exhibition and conference centre is set to add information on the carbon footprint of food to its menus to help drive changes in choices made by visitors, event hosts and menu designers.

ExCeL London to launch carbon labelling for food menus

ExCeL London is working with its long-term catering provider Levy and food sustainability data firm Foodsteps to calculate and communicate emissions data relating to each dish.

Detailed data on the lifecycle footprint of produce and other ingredients will be provided to the venue and to Levy. This information will be used to assist the design of lower-carbon recipes – something which Levy’s parent company, Compass Group UK & Ireland, has been working on for some time as part of its drive to become a net-zero business by 2030.

“Focusing on better data so our chefs and operational teams are informed, empowered, and recognised for the positive impact they can have in every single service, is what we’re trying to achieve together with Foodsteps,” said Levy’s business director and net-zero lead Kevin Watson.

A simplified carbon labelling system will be used to communicate the overall footprint of dishes to visitors and customers. Foodsteps will grade the footprint of each dish using colour coding and a grade from ‘A’, very low carbon, to ‘E’, very high carbon.

ExCel London welcomes four million visitors each year. It intends to help them to make more informed decisions on their food choices.

The venue’s sustainability manager Natalie Sykes said: “With food and drink a key element of the event industry, we want to do all we can to better inform our visitors and event organisers, and to reduce our overall emissions wherever we can. Foodsteps will make it easy to do that and complements our other measures which include reducing red meat on menus, and all desserts being dairy-free.”

ExCel London has been certified as carbon neutral under the PAS 2060 accreditation since 2022. It has made changes such as switching to 100% renewable electricity and bringing food waste below 1%, and is now working to further reduce emissions through to 2030 to reduce its reliance on offsetting.

Dishing up the data

In a recent survey conducted by Oatly, 62% of 2,000 British adults expressed support for a policy that mandates carbon labelling on food and beverage items.

Additionally, 55% believe that companies should be obligated to disclose this information, while 59% of respondents indicated that they would either reduce or completely stop consuming products with high carbon footprints if they were provided with accurate emissions data.

In response to Chris Skidmore’s Independent Review of the Net-Zero Strategy, the UK Government committed to exploring eco-labelling for the embodied emissions of industrial products and is currently consulting on how labelling could support demand for low carbon products. The Government is also working the Food Data Transparency Partnership to develop similar metrics for food labelling.

Several UK-based firms have added carbon labelling voluntarily including Oatly, Upfield and, recently, Sysco GB.

Comments (3)

  1. Rob Heap says:

    This is great news.
    The sooner we get the labelling on fresh and packaged foodstuffs at shops and cafes, the better.

  2. Ian Byrne says:

    Agree with @RobHeap. This is good news, if implemented properly. An A-E scale is easy to understand, though as energy labels are A-G, some might assume that D is the midpoint, not high carbon. I have a slight concern about relative labels compared to absolute ones (is this per portion, per 100g, or what?)
    Finding data can be hard I recently spoke to a small craft food provider who sells a “carbon neutral” product. It appears that he hadn’t even been told by his offset provider what the unit carbon footprint of his product was: they had just sent a questionnaire about his total inputs, and then computed the necessary offset level.

    1. Rob Heap says:

      @ Ian Byrne, I agree that the scale would be better if it had the same number of bands as energy labelling of appliances, but this is a good start. Something similar is being rolled out in Southern Sweden, so I will be interested in how these schemes are received.
      There is a lot of work to do to get food carbon footprint measuring accurate and it is open to greenwashing. There really needs to be a globally harmonised environmental product declaration (EPD) as the programme evolves. I would not be happy to see significant reliance on carbon offsetting for foodstuffs. Carbon offsetting must be a last resort in the supply and disposal (recycling) chain, only if all other carbon reduction opportunities have been exhausted.
      All of that said, if we can get the general public to accept some kind of carbon labelling system as a tool to help them lower their personal carbon footprint, it will be worth doing.

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