Chartwells Partners with HowGood on Climate Labeling and Sustainable Innovation

Chartwells Partners with HowGood on Climate Labeling and Sustainable Innovation

In Spring 2022, Chartwells Higher Education began partnering with HowGood to measure the overall sustainability of its menu items based on social and environmental impact metrics: greenhouse gas emissions, processing, water usage, soil health, land use, biodiversity, and animal welfare.

Chartwells used HowGood data to add climate labels to dining hall menus, leading to a 37% increase in student demand for low-impact recipes. They also brought HowGood’s Sustainability Intelligence platform, Latis, into cross-functional sustainability practices. With Latis, Chartwells has powered sustainable sourcing practices, climate friendly recipe innovation, sustainability-focused marketing, and new business acquisition.

“We were thrilled to be the first and only food service provider to introduce holistic climate labels to university dining halls,” said Monalisa Prasad, Director of Sustainability at Chartwells Higher Education. “The feedback so far from students and campus partners has been overwhelmingly positive. We’re continuing to improve the program by offering a broad range of low-impact menu options and making positive impacts easy to understand through measures like simplified iconography.”

Customer and consumer requests are driving the need for climate labeling solutions

In the past few years, Chartwells has increasingly been asked for more sustainability transparency from the university and college campuses they serve. In the past this often meant students and administration were seeking transparency on purchasing, but now these inquiries include more specific requests for data on carbon emissions per recipe. Their clients now frequently show interest in climate labeling, with the added expectation that the information be provided on demand. For Chartwells, implementing this meant that disparate pieces of data, spread across multiple systems, needed to be collected and analyzed.

“We started looking at the climate labeling tools available to us. The one main thing that we wanted to focus on was a holistic, inclusive approach to climate labeling and carbon data. That was the key factor for us in deciding to use HowGood.” - Monalisa Prasad

Once Chartwells discovered and vetted HowGood, they began reaching out to client campuses to get a feel for whether HowGood-style climate labeling would add value and help support their dining programs. They also asked their clients if it would make it easier for them to reach their own carbon neutral goals. The answer to all inquiries was a resounding “yes.”

Integrating sustainability into recipe development and purchasing 

From the beginning, Chartwells wanted to engage HowGood for more than just labeling, as a means to reduce their impact and support their customers’ climate goals. Using HowGood’s Latis platform, Chartwells was able to bring together individual operational departments to collaborate on sustainability initiatives. Previously they had operated in silos, struggling with limited access to cross-functional sustainability data. Mona shares that “Latis supported us in bringing everyone together.”

Once they started experimenting with recipes in HowGood’s Latis platform, the team quickly realized that this was the tool that was going to enable collaboration and shared progress toward goals. The results were clear: prior to working with HowGood, less than a third of Chartwells’ recipes menued nationwide achieved positive HowGood sustainability labels. One year later, nearly half (44%) received a positive rating. This percentage is only growing. 

“Most importantly, when we’re researching and developing new recipes, we’re able to create a climate-friendly recipe from the get-go, instead of just changing a few things here and there after the fact. Making these changes early in the process creates a much more efficient pathway to low-impact recipe development.”

Chartwells now has the data to make sure what they’re creating is climate-friendly from the start, and they’re able to also utilize that information to drive purchasing decisions. 

“We’re able to not only influence the recipes, but also our purchasing organization, being able to say, ‘this is what you can buy to drive lower-impact recipes.’ Now we can make these really strong data-informed decisions, whereas before it was difficult to get a picture of our overall impact,” shared Mona.

Chartwells’ culinary team now uses Latis to continually improve recipes based on their greenhouse gas emissions-reducing potential with access to additional, holistic ESG metrics. The platform allows Chartwells to test and innovate menu items with comprehensive, ingredient-level insights across all eight impact metrics, leveraging data on over 90,000 agricultural emissions factors. With this access, Chartwells and its partner campuses are advancing their sustainability goals and helping guests make more informed choices.

Climate labeling makes an impact

Part of Chartwells’ commitment to the campuses they work with is to provide educational events for engagement at both the administrator and student levels. They’ve been able to share their behind-the-scenes work that goes into climate labeling, further demonstrating the power of Latis.

“We’re actually able to show clients the process. Take a beef taco, as an example. We can show them the change in impact from using a regular beef taco to a 20% regenerative or organic beef and 80% lentil or mushroom, or whatever the blend may be. They’re able to visually see the shift from ‘red’ to ‘green’, or from not-climate-friendly to climate-friendly, etc. This is very, very impactful to be able to share,” says Mona.
“When Chartwells brought us the idea of adding climate labels to the dining halls, we were immediately sold; it was the exact kind of innovative and sustainably-focused thinking we’ve come to expect from Chartwells,” said Julie Bannister, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Auxiliary Services, at The University of Pittsburgh. “Our university’s goal is to be carbon neutral by 2037, and we’re thankful to have a food service partner that not only helps us achieve that goal but empowers our students to make their own decisions that are better for the planet.”

Leveraging sustainability data to increase revenue

“One of our biggest competitive advantages over the past few years is in how we’re scoring on sustainability. Now that’s our moment to shine. We’re growing because of our demonstrated commitment and efforts on impact reduction, and our sustainability journey isn’t complete without HowGood and the Latis platform.” - Mona

Chartwells hears from customers that one of the main differentiators setting them apart in the bidding process is the inclusivity of their climate labeling program, taking into account holistic metrics including social and environmental factors.

Successful partnership yielding leadership in food service sustainability

The partnership has been a success for both the Chartwells team and HowGood.

Mona shares that for Chartwells, “the Latis platform rose to the top of their sustainability software selection process because of everything HowGood does as leaders in the food industry sustainability space, including carbon accounting and climate labeling.” 

She adds, though, that the “people piece” was also important, “From day one, it felt like we’re one big family. That’s very important to us at Chartwells because it’s the sort of approach that’s always worked for us, where we don’t see each other as vendor partners but as true partners working together toward a shared mission.”