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Marketing and Comms
Events Are Driving Transparency, Awareness with Climate-Labeled Food Menus

Using climate-impact labels is one way events can persuade attendees to choose more sustainable menu options.

Event organizers globally are recognizing the need to evolve standard event practices into more sustainable versions. With the many routes trade shows and conferences can use to reduce their environmental footprint, the food and beverages served onsite mustn't be overlooked. With more than a third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions linked to the food system, the food and beverage items served to event attendees can significantly impact the event’s carbon footprint. Using climate-impact labels is one way events can persuade attendees to choose more sustainable menu options.

Consider the recent COP28 installation from MAF Carrefour, which brought holistic climate-impact labels to its food products in partnership with HowGood and Vusion. These labels were digitally displayed across more than 2,500 products at the United Nations’ annual climate conference to provide seamless visibility and empowered decision-making for attendees. Making those impact metrics available to consumers has become more readily available following rising demand. And those with labels see the benefits, too: Products making ESG-related claims averaged 28 percent cumulative growth over the past five-year period.

Climate labeling demonstrates commitment

Carbon-labeled menus at Climate Week NYC 2023 | Image credit: HowGood

Climate labeling demonstrates a clear commitment to carbon reduction. It enables organizations to showcase their transparency while empowering customers to make informed decisions. Moreso, it marks a public declaration of a company’s commitment to reducing impact. Claims on products can likewise communicate a variety of sustainability initiatives: A product carbon footprint label, for instance, showcases the measures of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) of a product, from cradle to shelf. Simplistic rating systems have also shown to be successful — denoting “Best,” “Great” or “Good” to point to products with lower social and environmental impacts than conventional products; while highlighting individual attributes — such as WaterSense, Fairtrade or Clean Label — provides clear and quick details for shoppers.

Chipotle has incorporated a similar approach with its “Real Foodprint” initiative. Through a sustainability assessment of all 53 ingredients on the Chipotle menu, the true environmental and social impact of every order can be calculated. The Real Foodprint impact tracker looks at five key metrics to demonstrate the impact of its sourcing practices: Less Carbon in the Atmosphere, Gallons of Water Saved, Improved Soil Health, Organic Land Supported, and Antibiotics Avoided.

Be prepared to avoid climate-label pitfalls

While climate labeling is clearly on the rise, companies need to be aware of the pitfalls of greenwashing. Regulatory bodies are taking note on the issue — the European Union’s Green Claims Initiative now requires brands to provide clear communication regarding the methodology used, and the Federal Trade Commission's Green Guides help marketers avoid unfair or deceptive claims — and more and more tools are emerging to help brands ensure they are walking their sustainability talk. Providing rigorous, vetted data will ensure sustainability claims can truly elevate the brand’s unique story and integrate seamlessly into a larger ESG strategy. Looking to industry-recognized methodologies and the latest scientific research is the best, first place to start in verifying any on-pack or on-shelf claims.

HowGood, an independent group of researchers with the largest food-ingredient sustainability database, provides accurate and precise carbon footprint data by leveraging crop- and location-based emission factors for over 90,000 agricultural inputs. Rather than relying on global averages, HowGood can get granular to ensure brands are on track to meet their overall sustainability goals and to provide the most accurate, greenwash-free information for on-pack claims.

Upcoming Sustainable Brands® events to feature climate-labeled menus

Sustainable Brands® (SB) is making its own commitment to sustainability at its events and, in partnership with HowGood, will feature climate-labeled food menus at both of its events this year — empowering attendees to choose their menu items with confidence, having data-backed claims to support each label featured on snacks and food menus. With an audience of brands in attendance, conversations on the power of these scientifically supported claims can help uncover the global possibilities that are available when achieving this level of environmental granularity.

Check out HowGood labeling at SB’s upcoming Brand-Led Culture Change event in May and at the flagship event, SB’24 San Diego, in October.