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UniCafe to start displaying the carbon footprint of all its meals to customers

UniCafe will start displaying the carbon footprint of its meals on its lunch menus. The emissions have been calculated for the full meal instead of the main dish only. The information will help customers make climate-smart choices in their everyday life.

Starting on 7th November, the carbon footprint of all meals sold at UniCafe will be displayed on the menus both at the restaurants and online. The information on the carbon footprint will be shown at the end of the list of ingredients for each dish.

In addition to this, the most climate-friendly main dish, side dish and beverage options have been marked with a Climate Choice label. The carbon footprint of a lunch consisting of options with the Climate Choice label is never more than 0.5 kg CO2e per lunch. This means that the emissions caused by the meal are in line with the 1.5-degree goal set in the Paris Agreement.

Achieving the climate goals requires companies to start providing genuinely climate-friendly products and services at a rapid rate. For this reason, UniCafe decided to reform its criteria and labelling practices for climate-friendly meals in connection with the carbon footprint calculations.

“A common way of communicating the carbon footprint of food is to state the amount of emissions per one hundred grams and to only account for the main dish. This makes it impossible for the customer to estimate the carbon footprint and climate sustainability of the entire meal. At UniCafe, the carbon footprint has been calculated for the entire meal, and meal options that are in line with the 1.5-degree goal have been clearly marked with the Climate Choice label”, Ylva’s Chief Sustainability Officer Antti Ruuska explains.

Food production is responsible for a sizeable share of everyday climate emissions. The average carbon footprint of Finnish lunches is currently 1.4 kg CO2e per lunch. Customers can generally choose any meal at UniCafe and stay under this average as long as they choose a side dish and beverage that are marked with the Climate Choice label.

“Emissions should be cut on all sectors of everyday life without exception. From now on, the Climate Choice meals at UniCafe will assure our customers that at least their lunch is within sustainable limits”, Ruuska sums up.

UniCafe’s carbon footprint calculations are based on peer-reviewed studies

Typically, restaurants base their carbon footprint calculations on public databases or various averages. UniCafe, however, decided to be more thorough with its groundwork to ensure that the information acquired now could be utilised in future calculations, too.

Each recipe was analysed ingredient by ingredient. The climate impact of each ingredient was assessed comprehensively, with the country of origin also taken into account, and the most accurate data on the ingredients’ carbon footprint was tracked down based on peer-reviewed studies.

“We now have a better understanding of the composition of our meals’ carbon footprints and will be able to easily update the data on the carbon footprints in the future when new research emerges. Currently, around one third of the lunches served at UniCafe are in accordance with the goals set in the climate agreement. In future menus, our aim is to increase the number of these Climate Choices, that is, lunch options that fall below the limit of 0.5 kg CO2e”, Ruuska states.

This was the first time that the carbon footprint of all lunches was calculated at the UniCafe restaurants operated by Ylva. Our goal was to help customers make climate-smart choices in their everyday life and to produce a calculation model that will make calculating the carbon footprint of new dishes and planning climate-friendly lunch menus easier in the future.

UniCafe is a pioneer of sustainable eating

2013 UniCafe produced a model for calculating the carbon footprint of its service production and conducted the calculation in its student restaurants for the first time.

2014 UniCafe took part in the Climate Lunch project conducted by Agrifood Research Finland (MTT) in cooperation with WWF and a group of lunch restaurants. The project was carried out to develop and test the Climate Choice concept, and one of its goals was to determine a limit for the greenhouse gas emissions of lunches that Climate Choice lunches’ emissions should not exceed. UniCafe permanently adopted the label for its lunch menus at the beginning of 2015. In connection with the newly conducted calculations, the limit for the emissions of UniCafe’s lunches that have the Climate Choice label was tightened to bring it into line with the carbon dioxide limit set in the One Planet Plate concept (0.5 kg CO2e per lunch).

2019 Ylva calculated the carbon footprint of its entire operation, and UniCafe had its first carbon budget drawn up.

2021 Calculating the carbon footprints of meals was piloted at UniCafe Kaivopiha as part of the Climate Meal campaign organised in November that year.

2022 In the future, we will be able to calculate our carbon budget more accurately than before thanks to the carbon footprint analysis of all ingredients conducted this year.

Meals served at the Porthania staff restaurant are, for the time being, not included in the carbon footprint calculations.

Further information:

Antti Ruuska
Chief Sustainability Officer, Ylva
Tel. +358 40 176 3142