Sustainable Catering: Putting our money where our mouth is

Whether it’s bagels, bagged lunches, or buffets, many of us buy food for work meetings or events. To make sure these purchases match our principles, there are many elements to consider, from what to serve and where it comes from, to how much waste it creates.

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At our sold-out fall quarterly meeting on September 5, we discussed the challenges and opportunities in Sustainable Catering.

Best practices for staff who purchase food

We first heard from Pam Neild, Sustainable City Government Coordinator for the City of Portland, who talked about the food purchasing best practices the City’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has created for staff. Their best practices fall under four general categories: the food you serve, the beverages you choose, setup, and waste prevention.

caterEmployees are encouraged to purchase food from local vendors, with a focus on vegetarian and vegan dishes as much as possible.

Serving food in smaller portions and served family style are best, since it allows people to choose how much they want and reduces food waste.

For beverages, provide water carafes and reusable cups instead of individual bottled water.

Communication with your food provider is also key: Let them know what not to bring, such as stir sticks and disposable cups.

To avoid waste, have reusable dishes and cutlery on hand, along with bins for dirty dishes, and let your food provider know not to bring disposable cups, dishes or utensils.

Pam stressed that the success of best practices is relative to the ease of the program. Make the program easy to understand and follow.

Vegan catering policy

Next, we heard from Ryan Shanahan of Earth Advantage, who told us about Earth Advantage’s policy of only serving vegan food for all internal and public meetings and events. This policy was voted on by staff (only one of whom is vegan) and passed by a two-thirds vote. Ryan said the response has been positive so far, and suggested framing the issue as a environmental one.

If you want to lower your organization’s carbon footprint by adopting a vegan-only policy, here are some tips from Ryan:

  • Let people know the benefits of vegan food. Meat and dairy production are huge contributors to climate change, and reducing consumption is a great way to lower your carbon footprint. Vegan food often has great health benefits as well.
  • Host a tasting party for vegan food – this helps combat people’s misconception that vegan food won’t taste as good, or be as filling, as food with dairy or meat.
  • Make it easy for staff: Create a list of vegan vendors and highlight popular vegan dishes (mezza platters, veggie tacos, etc.) so staff who have never ordered vegan dishes can be confident that their choices will be crowd-pleasers. A good place to start is NWVeg.org/resources or www.meatlessmonday.com

How are we walking our talk with sustainable catering?

We did our best to follow sustainable catering best practices for this meeting:

  • Vendor: Aprisa, locally owned, and co-owned by an entrepreneur of color.
  • Food: Burrito bar with grilled veggies (vegan), salsa, and dairy sides (vegetarian).
  • Reusables instead of disposables: We provided reusable serving utensils, plates and utensils. Aprisa served food in reusable metal pans, and we contracted with Portland Pedal Power to pick them up after the event and return them to the vendor.
  • Delivery: We contracted with Portland Pedal Power to deliver the food by bike.
  • Donation: We contracted with Portland Pedal Power to pick-up any food that could be donated and take it to Portland Rescue Mission.

We’re aiming to continue to learn and improve our practices for future events – if you have suggestions or resources, let us know!

Resources

We want to hear from you!

Does your workplace have sustainable catering best practices? Do you have questions about sustainable catering? Or resources that others might find helpful? Let us know! Email us at oregoncscollaborative@gmail.com.

How do PGE, Columbia Sportswear and New Seasons do sustainability reporting?

Let’s imagine you’re a new sustainability professional in your first few months at a company. You hear from the executive team that they want you to research and create the company’s first Sustainability Report. Where do you begin? You’re not the first person in our network to face this daunting question.

Corporate Sustainability Collaborative hosted its quarterly lunch in June, where we asked some local professionals to share their process and how they approached their target audiences, goals and intended outcomes for creating a report.

Guru Larson from Columbia Sportswear shared the evolution of their sustainability reporting, back to the first iteration in 2015.  The report began by simply “putting a stake in the ground” and sharing a wealth of detailed information including the history of the company and company values, in addition to sustainability metrics. Columbia leadership loved the finished product, and 2016’s report was a shorter “update” of the original report, but many at Columbia felt it lacked stories about their work and needed to speak more directly to customers. 2017’s reporting elevated storytelling, for the purposes of informing, entertaining, and providing utility to their customers. It used social media, polished advertising concepts, video, and compelling stories to convey their message.  See all three examples and finished reports at https://www.columbia.com/corporate-responsibility/

Athena Petty from New Seasons Market shared that their process and audiences were very different from Columbia. Their Impact Report is a document, aimed mainly at their large and dedicated staff, who they see as important ambassadors in sharing their messages with customers. Their report focuses on the company’s “mission pillars”, and the report is Annotation 2019-06-10 201609built around them. The report is fun, colorful, and full of both easy-to-digest stats about New Seasons Market, its operational sustainability and also its community involvement with local nonprofits.  Athena also highlighted the involvement of everyone from HR staff to front-line staff in providing the information, stories and photos the report highlights.  See their updated report at https://www.newseasonsmarket.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Impact-Report-2018.pdf and other sustainability updates here.

Caitlin Horsley was our final panelist, and she shared the evolution of Portland General Electric’s reporting over the past few years. Their report has varied over the years from a 40-page epic document, to an online report with web and PDF mini-reports tailored to specific audiences. When the first sustainability report was released in 2013, it was built around a Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework and was aimed primarily at investor-level stakeholders. Over time, the report has shifted to speak to different audiences in the ways and at the detail level they expect. Investors expect metrics, reported in a matrix format. Customers get a high-level, web-based overview of PGE’s values and its progress toward its five “Pillars of Sustainability”. See PGE’s progression and diverse reporting formats here.

All three of our panelists had aspirations to aim even higher with future reports, incorporating video storytelling, incorporating B Corp frameworks into reporting, adding comprehensive climate goals, and maintaining regular updates throughout the year (rather than just once a year.)

Others who attended offered to share their reports, so a couple more examples to check out are Vestas’ reports and ratings page and Yakima Chief Hops’ report. Pick a company you admire, and search for their “sustainability report” or “corporate social responsibility” to get a little inspiration. CSC also intends to host a longer (three to four hour) workshop on CSR Reporting in the future, so keep an eye out for that learning opportunity.

B Local PDX, our local BCorp collective assembled a set of great resources for sustainability reporting, too, which gives you a checklist of questions to ask when starting a report process.  Read it here…

 

CSC member businesses go beyond paper and recycling

Sustainability efforts are often thought of in terms of the easy wins.  Green Teams certainly do important things like encouraging employees to use both sides of paper, recycle more items, and make positive changes to the way they work.  But Corporate Sustainability Collaborative member companies clearly envision a more ambitious view of what’s achievable.

At our December 2018 quarterly meeting, everyone in attendance had a chance to share their workplace’s greatest sustainability success from the year, and some of what they shared goes far beyond resource conservation.

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December 2018’s quarterly meeting took advantage of Vestas’ stadium seating to accommodate a group of ambitious sustainability champions.

We heard organizations like Vestas (which hosted the event) share their plan to have their building LEED Platinum re-certified, even under stricter criteria that exist now. We heard businesses like KINK-FM going carbon-neutral. Energy Trust of Oregon has a goal with its management team to go fully paperless. Other organizations like Heritage Bank, were going even bigger. Heritage Bank is instituting equity policies aimed at achieving equal pay for men and women. Elephants Deli and CLEAResult are actively centering equity in their purchasing, catering and vendor choices.

Some of the more traditional sustainability projects members highlighted even had lofty end goals. The catering arm of Elephants Deli is working to eliminate specific items like Styrofoam or throwaway plastic tongs – aiming for a goal to remove all single-use (especially plastic) items from their operations.

Businesses like Daimler and the Portland Trail Blazers took on the serious challenge of expanding employee engagement in sustainability beyond small groups of engaged employees. The Trail Blazers added a tour of their sustainability efforts into every new employee’s onboarding process. Daimler has recruited more than 300 employees into their Sustainability Club and started an Ambassadors program with the hope of engaging even more employees in environmental issues.

Some of the most impressive projects were about doing things that sound simple at first, but require serious effort to stay the course. For example, the Trail Blazers organization helps people at their events recycle, but they also sort through EVERY bag of waste bound for the landfill to pull out compostable and recyclable materials before it leaves the building.

Businesses always tell employees not to waste office supplies, but companies like The Standard went to the trouble of setting up a “Green House” to collect unused items for other co-workers to use.

Many workplaces offer an electric car charging station and a few bike parking spots, but companies like Vestas are adding more car charging equipment to meet employee demand and offering in-office bike tune-ups twice a year.

Every piece of paper saved, every kilowatt of electricity not needed, every gallon of gasoline not burned, every pound of “garbage” that was instead turned into compost or recycled into new items all make a difference. But real change clearly requires effort and dedication.  The Corporate Sustainability Collaborative is incredibly proud of our member companies and the strides they are taking to address our biggest environmental and social challenges. We can’t wait to hear about these efforts and more at our next gathering in March 2019.

How would your business choose Sustainable Development Goals? Start with our ideas:

The language of sustainability can seem like an alphabet soup of acronyms, making the very personal work we do feel rather impersonal. SDG. UN. GRI. SRS. Despite the jargon, these are acronyms that connect businesses back to one central goal – make the world a more just and secure place for all.

The Corporate Sustainability Collaborative (CSC, just to add one more acronym to the heap) hosted its Quarterly Meeting in early September, focusing on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how businesses can make lofty goals like these important parts of a corporate responsibility program.

"Understanding and Integrating the SDGs" presentation cover slide
Attend a second session of this workshop at the Oct. 10th GoGreen Portland conference. 30% off coupon code at the bottom of this post.

Jami Haaning from Engie Insight provided the initial overview of the SDGs and outlined ways in which businesses have worked key Goals into every aspect of their work – from raw materials to the end of life of a product or service. Her presentation, with specifics of how businesses can set their own goals, is available here.

The goals this workshop focused on were:

Breakout groups brainstormed tactics for one goal their organizations could set to make the greatest impact. Ideas bubbled up from the groups, including:

SDG 3 (health and well-being):

  • Create a corporate Wellness Committee that oversees health-related initiatives like these below, and ask for input from employees not on the committee
  • Company purchases healthy snacks (like fruit) for the office
  • Use EcoChallenge to encourage employees to be healthy, with FitBit as prize
  • Sponsor a company team for Bike More Challenge or other active transportation advocacy events
  • Psychiatric/mental health counseling included in benefits
  • “Total Rewards Package” includes non-traditional benefits such as meditation packages, quiet space, yoga classes, fitness center, locker rooms in the workplace
  • Program for logging activity levels
  • Use safety committee to promote health/well-being and its effects on safety (i.e. awareness of lack of sleep and its risks on the job)
  • Offer adequate levels of vacation, and structure teams to allow people to use time away from work

SDG 7 (energy):

  • Donate employee time to serve on non-profit boards of organizations advancing clean and/or affordable energy (such as Earth Advantage or Community Energy Project)
  • Promote Earth Hour at your place of employment; this is a global challenge to shut the lights off for one hour, the next one is: 8:30-9:30 March 30th, 2019
  • Donate employee time to volunteer with groups like Community Energy Project that install weather-stripping and plastic on the windows for older residents, or those with disabilities. For those able to do the work themselves, CEP provides training and supply kits.
  • Encourage employees, friends and employers to offset energy usage through carbon offset programs for natural gas and electricity. This puts promotion and assurance of on-going biogas and wind projects into the hands of the people for relatively low cost. Smart Energy, Blue Sky and PGE’s offset options are programs Portland businesses can consider.
  • In Portland, companies could promote employees getting a Home Energy Score by off-setting the cost and then interviewing these employees and featuring the learnings/experience in a company-wide communication forum. This makes the concepts of energy efficiency seem more relevant when your house gets an efficiency score.

 SDG 10 (inequality): 

  • Hold job fairs in low-income areas and rural areas to attract new and more diverse set of applicants
  • Hire workers from disadvantaged communities (example: Portland companies’ “We Hire Refugees” commitments)
  • Eliminate common barriers to employment for people of different abilities / backgrounds (example: remove higher-education degree requirements for non-technical jobs)
  • Make workspaces accessible and accommodating
  • Conduct “blind” hiring processes, where names of applicants are not shown to hiring managers, only qualifications
  • Promote workers from within a company

SDG 11 (sustainable cities):

  • Offer inexpensive or free access to public transportation for employees
  • Offer employees incentives to use active transportation methods (biking, walking, riding a skateboard) to the office
  • Businesses with park-like space (courtyards, outdoor spaces) can open them up for use by the public
  • Use the power of your business with local / state / federal government to advocate for policies that advance sustainable cities. Sign on to coalitions of businesses working for equitable transportation, urban design, public spaces, or other urban livability improvements.
  • Banks and investors can lend to projects with sustainable development goals and using sustainable technologies in their design or business operations.

SDG 12 (consumption):

  • Switch to paperless processes to reduce paper waste and storage needs. (ex. NW Natural has worked on a comprehensive paper reduction program.)
  • Update purchasing requirements to prefer products with reduced packaging and made from post-consumer recycled materials.
  • Switch to reusable dishware in office kitchens / breakrooms and use catering companies that provide reusable dishware.
  • For manufacturers, work on closed loop systems.
  • Educate coworkers, friends and family members on sustainable consumption choices through programs like EcoChallenge.

SDG 13 (climate change):

  • Move company’s power consumption to sustainable sources (wind, solar) with the help of local utilities
  • Work with building managers/owners to convert office or facility lighting to energy-efficient options, such as LEDs
  • Work to instill resilience (being able to cope with loss of water or power, minimize impacts from potential natural disasters) in the company’s supply chain and operations assets
  • Have the company advocate for cheaper, easier access to sustainable energy with utilities, local and state governments

Many businesses are already using the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)’s business indicators to track actions like these, and the SDGCompass.org website offers a handy list of key GRI Indicators for each Goal.

To participate in a second presentation of this workshop, attend the Portland GoGreen conference on Oct. 10th – use the Corporate Sustainability Collaborative’s coupon code (CSC30) to get 30% off your registration.

Dig into Sustainable Development Goals on September 6:

At our last meeting we learned about the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how they fit into the larger world of investing and reporting. We also heard how two local businesses, Portland Roasting and Portland Hawthorne Hostel, have used the SDGs to shape their sustainability goals and staff engagement.

At this meeting, we’ll dig into a handful of the goals that are most applicable to Portland businesses and the work CSC members do. Sign up for lunch and the workshop here…

You’ll be able to choose the SDG that most interests you, and join a small group conversation to discuss:

  • Where do you have influence?
  • Where can you take action?
  • What are key takeaways you can implement?

If you’d like to learn more about the SDGs that we’ll be discussing, check out these links:

A $5 RSVP ticket is required to attend, to offset lunch and venue costs.

Need a framework for sustainability? Use the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

The Corporate Sustainability Collaborative’s last Quarterly Meeting introduced us to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  These broad goals can act as a framework on which to build a more socially responsible and sustainable business. Mike Wallace from BrownFlynn, an ERM Company, gave us the 30,000-foot view of the SDGs and how they compare to other measurement tools.  (View his CSC SDG introduction for links to a TON of great resources.)

In this same presentation, Michelle Singler of Portland Roasting Co. covered how their local business incorporates UN SDGs into its employee engagement program. (Skip to page 35 to see their work.)  Michele Machado from Hostelling International (Hawthorne) also gave examples of how HI’s network of travelers’ hostels built an award-winning awareness campaign around the SDGs. (Skip to page 41 to see their work.)

Jami Haaning from Engie Insight shared a crucial tool for considering how to use the SDGs in your organization. Download her worksheets to consider questions that can help you find the right SDGs for your company.

 

We did Earth Month right!

RRR+ 2018 resultsPreventing waste. Touring our city’s garbage transfer station. Giving you the low-down on our recycling system. Movie night. Volunteering (in the city AND at a natural area.) A group bike ride with a tour of a food distribution hub.

It’s pretty amazing when we look back at all the Corporate Sustainability Collaborative and our member companies were able to do in just one month.  We couldn’t have done all these events without the help of the partners who put on events, gave us prizes for our Reduce Reuse Recaffeinate+ program, and got their employees to participate.  Thank you to our partners:

Location and event presenters and sponsors:
City of Portland – Sustainability at Work
ECO (Ecology in Classrooms and Outdoors)
Energy Trust of Oregon
Heritage Bank
Recology
Apex Environmental
NW Natural
Columbia Slough Watershed Council
Ruby Receptionists
SOLVE
Ecotrust — The Redd on Salmon Street
Asher David Brewing and Cellarworks
B-Line Urban Delivery
The Street Trust

Prize donors:
BIKETOWN
Portland Trailblazers
EcoTeas Organic Yerba Mate
GO Box
EarthShare Oregon
Garden Bar

Want your employees to be in on the fun next year?  Sign up as a Corporate Sustainability Collaborative member, or volunteer to help us put on an event in 2019!

SOLD OUT: June 7th Quarterly Meeting:

Register now

Join your sustainability colleagues for lunch to go beyond the basics of sustainability. Innovative businesses of all sizes are using the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to plan and quantify their effect on the planet and our society. Mike Wallace, a Partner with ERM, a leading sustainability consultancy, will lead a session on SDGs. Jami Haaning from Engie Insight will facilitate group exercises to help you select the SDGs that align with your company.

Note: A $5 paid ticket is required to attend, and all seats are currently sold.  Put your name on the waitlist and we will contact you if space becomes available.

This quarter’s meeting generously hosted by Ruby Receptionists, with lunch provided by Waste Connections.

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Last call for Earth Month fun!

The Corporate Sustainability Collaborative’s biggest effort of the year is here: April is Earth Month!  This year’s events have concluded, but you can still email in your Reduce Reuse Recaffeinate Plus card to get entered to win prizes!

Be sure to email a picture  or a scan of your card to oregoncscollaborative@gmail.com no later than May 4th.  Prizes include a signed Portland Trailblazers basketball (signed by the whole 2018 team!), prize baskets from EcoTeas , environmental gift bag from EarthShare Oregon, and a plethora of items to help you keep improving your waste prevention efforts!

March 1 Quarterly Meeting — Plastics: What Now?

 

At our March 1 meeting, staff from the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and Sustainability at Work discussed what’s happening in recycling and reuse. Below are some the take-aways.

Wondering what’s happening with recycling after seeing recent news headlines? Here’s a short video that explains how January 2018 changes to international recycling markets are impacting US recycling:
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Click here to watch.

Read more about what’s happening here in Portland and what it means for you.

Top take-aways

We don’t know when “extra plastics” recycling will return. Right now those plastics are not economically viable to recycle. Read more.

Portland’s regular recycling (at work and home) has not changed. However, it’s more important than ever to “recycle right” by only recycling the allowed items. So it’s a great time to:

  1. Review the list
  2. Label your workplace recycling with accurate signs
  3. Call Metro’s recycling information line (503-234-3000) if you have questions about what can be recycled.

Reduce and reuse first, then recycle

Recycling is great! By recycling old products into new ones reduces the use of natural resources and saves energy and water in the manufacturing process.

BUT, far more energy and resources are saved by reducing the amount of disposable products you use, and reusing products as much as possible before disposing of them. This infographic from the City’s Climate Action Now campaign shows that disposal is only a tiny percent of a product’s carbon impact:

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Tips for reuse in Portland

Find tons of ideas and resources at ResourcefulPDX.

resourceful pdxClick here to see the map of reuse, swap and repair opportunities in Portland.

This quarter’s meeting was generously hosted by:

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