8 minutes

Corporate Social Responsibility, Food Waste and CO2 in the Canteen

Community catering and climate neutrality

Sustainability and climate neutrality are key issues that are currently of great concern to politicians, companies of all sizes and sectors, and therefore society at large. A quickly overlooked, but effective place to increase sustainability in companies is the communal catering. On the one hand, it offers great potential for avoiding waste and CO2 emissions, and on the other hand, it is where the entire company meets. The canteen thus offers the ideal stage and also helps to raise awareness of the topic among employees and guests. 

Whether it's a company canteen, staff restaurant, university canteen, senior citizens' residence or hospital ward catering, they all have one thing in common: there are a multitude of measures to improve the CO2 footprint and often still untapped potential. Today we present the opportunities for reducing CO2 through less food waste and concrete countermeasures. Because this not only protects the climate and your wallet, but also saves valuable food from the waste bin. 

While food waste did not receive the attention it does today, restaurateurs are now paying more attention to the issue. And not only to achieve goals for corporate social responsibility (CSR), climate neutrality and sustainability, but also because less food waste saves the company money and is good for the external and internal image. Food waste savings in community catering, for example, have a double impact on resource efficiency, as 1 tonne of food waste saves around 2.5 tonnes of CO2 equivalents.

"Companies that focus on sustainability in the long term will survive on the market in the long term."

(Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG in the

Climate, company and customer dreams - they all go together! This is not only the opinion of the successful VW subsidiary, whose goal is to be completely climate neutral by 2030. Every company can contribute to doing something against climate change, we show you how.

Food waste in Germany

According to a study by the BMEL, 12 million tons of food still end up in the garbage in Germany every year (as of 2019). At 1.7 million tonnes, out-of-home supply accounts for 14% of food waste. However, this excludes the resources used to produce, process and transport this food. At the level of greenhouse gas emissions, halving food waste could save a full six million tonnes of CO2 equivalents annually.

The topic is also high on the political agenda, as the German government's goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. For example, the legal requirements of the 2030 climate protection programme of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) include a point on sustainable diets. These address, among other things, the avoidance of food waste and a programme to strengthen sustainability in the communal catering of the federal administration. 

Food waste in the company canteen 

According to a study by United Against Waste, conducted in 359 company canteens in Germany, an average of 108 g of food waste is produced per meal sold, which accounts for about 20 percent of the sales volume of a company restaurant. About a third of this can be avoided through targeted measures. Taking the example of a canteen with around 500 diners per day, this results in an annual savings potential of around 4 tonnes of food or around 10 tonnes of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions.

Importantly for corporate decision makers and sustainability teams, preventing food waste before it occurs is the only way to impact all of these environmental issues while having a financial impact on their overall bottom line.

Measures to prevent food waste

Common causes of food waste in commercial kitchens are overproduction, incorrect portion sizes, unpopular food choices, problems with storage, production or preparation. As a result, overproduction and plate returns alone account for an average of about 70 percent of all waste in kitchens. Overproduction usually occurs when calculating the amount needed for purchasing and production. Precise planning is no easy task, as the demand behavior of guests fluctuates greatly due to various factors, such as the weather, holiday periods or the menu combination offered. Here, AI-based forecasting systems can help improve planning and proactively avoid food waste due to overproduction.

Plate returns, as the second most frequent cause, are mostly caused by inaccurate portioning or too large portion sizes. In order to create transparency here, monitoring systems are helpful, which are also used to make waste that arises from the production process in the kitchen or in the warehouse visible.

At this point we would like to take a closer look at the two systems for preventing food waste:


Food Waste Monitoring Systems

In most companies, the exact waste quantities are not known or only very roughly known, as they are not systematically recorded. The status quo is usually the waste statistics of the disposal company at container level at the end of the month or Excel lists that have to be manually maintained and then laboriously evaluated. However, there are tools that make food waste data collection easy and provide continuous transparency into the causes of waste. The newly created transparency can then be used to develop targeted improvement strategies.

Basically, a distinction can be made between two different monitoring systems:

- combined hardware and software systems for weighing and categorising food waste and
-software systems for simple recording and graphic visualisation of the measured waste without external hardware.

Combined hardware and software systems

Monitoring systems with intelligent weighing systems offer the possibility to record waste on the plate accurately and automatically. The advantage of these solutions is that food waste can be recorded with minimal disruption to workflows, as weighed quantities are automatically entered into the system. Often, the installation of the systems and evaluations are supported by consultants who assist with recommended actions to optimize on-site processes. Providers working with this approach include Winnow Solutions, Leanpath or Kitro. 

Software systems

Purely software-based monitoring systems use already available scales on site and thus have the advantage of being immediately available without installation effort or maintenance. Waste quantities are weighed daily by kitchen staff in various self-defined categories (e.g. overproduction, plate returns, kitchen or warehouse waste) and easily recorded via web app. Afterwards, the measured quantities can be viewed in graphical dashboard reports and important findings for process optimization can be derived from them. The teams can also see anew every day whether they are on target for the day and how the change looks over time. The effort for this is usually less than 15 minutes per day - an investment that pays off.

Simple documentation through food waste monitoring

Forecasting systems based on artificial intelligence

While food waste monitoring systems aim to create transparency and awareness in order to derive measures for optimizing processes in the company, forecasting systems go one step further. With the knowledge of how many portions will be sold on the current day and beyond, companies can produce optimally from the outset and avoid food waste by preventing it from occurring in the first place.

The software solution is connected to the merchandise management or POS system and "learns" from the data history how many dishes a company has to produce on a daily basis. The data is displayed in real time and thus enables better structuring of the kitchen staff's tasks. Forecasts can not only help to actively avoid waste, but also to make processes more efficient. For example, forecasts increase productivity, reduce costs and create greater planning certainty. Companies can thus use sales forec asts to act proactively and optimize their purchasing, increase sustainability and reduce food waste by up to 30% or prevent it from occurring in the first place. Thus, CO2 emissions can be massively reduced, which are not only caused by throwing away leftover food, but also by the production, transport and processing of food.

Delicious Data offers a solution that helps foodservice operators better plan the use of food. With the help of artificial intelligence (AI), companies can reduce food waste by up to 30% by preventing it from happening in the first place.

Sustainable supply and purchasing 

"Meatless Monday"

According to statistics in Germany, meat consumption among Germans dropped significantly last year for the first time in 30 years. You can use this trend as a hook and choose a meatless day in the week, for example "Meatless Monday". The aim of this global movement is to encourage people to do something good for the planet by reducing the amount of meat in their diet. At Monday Campaigns you can find instructions and sample recipes on how to implement Meatless Monday in your canteen, university refectory or system catering. In the company you can advertise how much CO2-equivalents have been saved on the respective day, showing your customers and employees how you are committed to the topic of sustainability.

The climate-friendly footprint

The Swiss company Eaternity helps companies to determine the ecological footprint of food products. The innovative software can help a business establish a systematic transformation to a sustainable food system. With the "Eaternity Award" seal of approval, one can label one's climate-friendly menu and send a clear message to one's guests and own employees in the direction of corporate social responsibility. This way, everyone gets access to climate-friendly meals and learns what it takes to make a difference together.

Climate protection on the plate. 

The KlimaTeller app helps to measure the emission value of each dish to the gram. The ingredients and their quantity are indicated together with the number of servings. If the emission value of the dish is at least 50 % below the average value of comparable dishes, the app labels the dish as a climate plate. This can be used in employee communication within the company canteen or for external presentation. 

Sustainable purchasing

A healthy and sustainable food offer in the canteen can also be achieved by other factors besides avoiding food waste. Another possibility is the use of regional and seasonal food. The Green Canteen platform connects regional organic producers with the cooks, the purchasing department and the guests of the community catering operation. The concept gives canteen kitchens easy access to food that is seasonally available and has been produced regionally and sustainably.

The startup Querfeld deals with a similar topic. They "rescue" crooked vegetables from the producer and bring them back into the cycle. Commercial kitchens can conveniently order online and save food while shopping.


A great deal is happening every day in the country's commercial kitchens, with or without a pandemic - the situation is dynamic and requires constant adaptation. Often a recording of the status quo helps as a basis for the next measures.

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More profit.

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Less Food Waste.

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More time for customers.