24 February 2022

A series of research activities led by the University of Edinburgh Business School over the last six years has resulted in the launch of a carbon calculator tool. It is designed to allow public sector caterers to measure and compare their carbon footprints, and hence drive reduction of their emissions through adoption of improved practices.
The Meal Analyser Tool

Angela Tregear (Personal Chair in Marketing at the Business School) and Adam Wilkinson (Impact Measurement Ltd) have brought together their academic and industry expertise to create the 'Meal Analyser' tool.

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing humanity, and with around one quarter of global carbon emissions coming from agriculture and food supply chains, better choices around what and how we choose to eat are an important step towards net zero targets. In the UK, public sector catering services (such as schools, hospitals, care homes, and universities) serve an estimated 2.1 billion meals per year. So changes to practices in these services, in terms of food procurement, meal planning, and waste handling, have huge potential to drive down emissions and move towards more sustainable food supply chains.

The Meal Analyser allows catering managers running meal services to understand which parts of their service and supply chain create the most carbon emissions, and how adjustments to those activities can reduce their total carbon footprints. Uniquely, this tool calculates the full 'life cycle' of the emissions emitted, collating data from the procurement and transport of the food right through to the kitchen preparation and ultimate waste disposal. Additionally, it shows the implications for catering providers' ambitions to achieve net zero, with inbuilt methodology keeping up with relevant ISO and BSI standards. As a final bonus feature, the tool provides an estimate of the local economic impact of the catering service, something that is becoming increasingly imperative for public catering as providers seek to demonstrate best value for money from their budgets.

"Climate change and the need to reduce carbon emissions is very much at the forefront of public debate, and it's clear that emerging government policies will require more mandatory reporting of carbon emissions by local authorities and the businesses they work with," said Angela.

"We have developed the Meal Analyser to help those authorities and catering professionals adapt to new requirements, and provide them with the information they need to achieve their own carbon reduction targets."

A free version of the Meal Analyser tool is available for use, with a further offer under licence agreement for clients wishing to use it to its full capability and support resources.

The Meal Analyser is currently being trialled by a number of School Academy Trusts in England. Enquiries from interested parties are welcomed:

The paper is published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.

Angela Tregear is Personal Chair in Marketing at the University of Edinburgh Business School.