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Sweetgreen, the American fast casual salad chain, is the latest food establishment to hop on the sustainability bandwagon, pledging to become carbon neutral within the next six years. Describing the commitment as the “right thing to do”, the popular healthy go-to salad spot says that it will be increasing its range of plant-powered options and introducing new sustainably grown ingredients to its menu.
Sweetgreen says that it plans to slash its carbon footprint to zero by 2027, half of which will come from sustainable sourcing decisions and plant-forward menu development. Commissioning climate firm Watershed to assess its suppliers and calculate the footprint of its ingredients, Sweetgreen says that it’ll “introduce even more plant-powered salads and soil-friendly ingredients”, listing regenerative kelp and sorghum as some of the new items customers can expect to see in future menu rosters.
With the food system driving 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the time for change is now.Nicolas Jammet, Co-Founder & CCO, Sweetgreen
It stops short, however, to eliminate carbon-intensive animal-based products from the menu, with Sweetgreen saying that it’ll move instead to “work closely with poultry and cheese suppliers to implement new strategies for carbon minimisation”.
Commenting on its new climate commitment, Sweetgreen co-founder and chief concept officer Nicolas Jammet said: “Simply put, we believe it’s the right thing to do for our business and for the planet. With the food system driving 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the time for change is now.”
Scientific research has shown that the number one driver of food system emissions is animal agriculture, with the industry alone contributing more than 18% of the world’s carbon footprint, exceeding that of all forms of global transportation combined.
Simply put, we believe it’s the right thing to do for our business and for the planet.Nicolas Jammet, Co-Founder & CCO, Sweetgreen
A recent G20 food footprint report by Oslo-based nonprofit EAT found that if the world’s largest economies switched to a flexitarian diet – lowering the consumption of meat and dairy – as much as 40% of the total global carbon budget for food could be freed up.
Other measures that Sweetgreen plans to take to reach its six-year goal include optimising the building materials used in its restaurants and furniture, investing in renewable energy, and “double clicking into more granular decisions around things like equipment and refrigeration”. The chain also says it will invest in meaningful offsetting projects, once it has reduced its footprint “as much as possible”.
Watershed, the firm that Sweetgreen has partnered with to assess its carbon footprint, says that at the moment, the chain’s menu is already around 30% less carbon-intensive than the average U.S. diet.
“Their commitment to decrease their greenhouse gas intensity by 50% and become carbon neutral is setting a new bar for the industry,” commented Watershed co-founder Taylor Francis.
Similar moves have been made by Sweetgreen’s rival chain Just Salad, who has pledged to put carbon labels on all of its menu items indicating its footprint, making it the first U.S. restaurant chain to do so. Just Salad has also made moves to remove beef, one of the most carbon-intensive of all animal products, replacing it with plant-based Beyond Meat, and has since committed to add more plant-based cheese options too.
Their commitment to decrease their greenhouse gas intensity by 50% and become carbon neutral is setting a new bar for the industry.Taylor Francis, Co-Founder, Watershed
While Sweetgreen has only so far revealed that it’ll make its menu more plant-centric, adding little details as to whether plant-based alternatives will be added, Jammet reiterated that the chain will be implementing a whole slew of step-by-step measures to make their actions count.
“We know that real change doesn’t happen overnight – it’s all the steps in between, the little moments that can lead to a big impact. That’s why we’re making this commitment.”
All images courtesy of Sweetgreen.