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Restaurant operators, food service providers and investors are devouring sustainable startups – and it’s time to invest in your ESG business plan.

In today’s world, you can’t run a business without standards for sustainability in place. Whether you’re heading a food company, restaurant or working in fashion or tech, being conscientious about your company’s environmental impact is imperative across all industries. Investors and consumers alike are taking carbon footprints into account when they decide to put their money behind a business or service. Without actionable transparency about your company’s compliance with environmental, social and governance (ESG), bottom line’s may be greatly affected.

Why should you be paying attention to ESG? Here are just 6 of many reasons.
  1. ESG practices are linked to an increase in your bottom line: A proper ESG program can lead to cost savings by reducing waste, optimizing energy usage and optimizing resources in a currently hampered supply chain.
  2. Employees are attracted to social responsibility: An ESG program that includes encompassing labor practices and employee engagement, diversity and inclusion can help attract and retain top talent, increase productivity, and reduces costs related to high turnover rates.
  3. Investors are paying attention: A socially conscious and responsible business is attractive to partners and investors. There is no better example than the rise of ESG reporting, particularly as a requirement from public stock exchanges.
  4. ESG factors have outperformed within the S&P 500 in recent years: Here are a few trends according to RBC Wealth Management:
    1. Top S&P 500 holdings in dedicated, actively managed sustainable funds have outperformed, including those stocks that are uniquely popular to sustainable funds
    2. S&P 500 companies with better ESG risk profiles have outperformed those with worse ESG risk profiles
    3. S&P 500 companies with the most improvement in ESG risk scores have outperformed those with the least improvement on a sector neutral basis
  5. Your customers are paying attention: More than half of customers (66%) say they will spend more on sustainable brands, according to Nielsen’s Global Corporate Sustainability Report.
  6. Be a better business: A company that is more committed to sustainability and incorporates ESG into the bigger picture will be more efficient and more resilient to change.

As the number of hospitality services dedicated to eco-conscious missions (like cutting food waste and recycling) continue to grow, more operators are looking for sustainability solutions for front and back of house operations. Here are a few companies in the Branded family that are bringing solutions to sustainability and incorporate ESG into their business plan.

Waste less and feed more with Copia

Americans waste 3x more food than there are hungry mouths to feed! Hunger is NOT a scarcity problem, hunger is a logistics problem. Every single day, Americans waste enough food to fill a 90,000 seat football stadium to the brim. Meanwhile, one in six Americans is food insecure, meaning they don’t know how and when they will obtain their next meal.

With 40% of all food in America going to waste annually, Copia, a San Francisco-based tech company that matches a business with excess food to people, is one company that set out to disrupt this market.

The cost of food waste is no joke. Americans discard more than $160 billion in food each year. Here’s the good news: For every $1 a company invests in food waste reduction, they can expect a $14 return on investment. Here’s the even better news: Copia™ offers more than just a solid ROI — they provide best-in-class service, robust analytics, significant tax savings, and materials to help your business broadcast exciting news about your community impact.

Copia™ has developed the world’s first end-to-end solution that addresses both. Restaurants, hotels, hospitals, corporate cafeterias, and other businesses with food use Copia’s technology to understand overproduction trends and reduce surplus over time, while ensuring that excess food is used to its highest and best potential — to feed people in need. All you need is a mobile device, a few minutes a day, and the motivation to change the world (for the better).

Operators can go online or use the Copia app to schedule a pickup of extra food and the system’s back-end tech matches the amount and type of food to nonprofits in need.

Drivers are then dispatched for pickup and delivery. Through Copia’s dashboard, your business can access real-time data and actionable insights to help you understand food surplus trends to reduce over-purchasing and overproduction – saving your business thousands if dollars annually. Furthermore, Copia’s automated and audit-proof tax deduction service helps your business unlock tens of thousands to tens of millions of dollars in additional financial savings.

In 2021, Copia has:

  • Donated 780,366 pounds of food
  • Donated 650,305 meals
  • Saved 3,488,236 pounds of CO2
  • Saved 284,607,284 gallons of water

Particularly around holidays, more companies are leveraging the tech to give back and reduce waste. And there is plenty of room for growth, considering 83% of unused food in restaurants in particular ends up going to waste. That amounts to businesses wasting a staggering $25 billion each year on food waste alone, according to a study by reFED.  The time is now to waste less and feed more.

Take out disposable packaging and deliver a sustainable solution with Dispatch Goods

Now, chew on this: Americans throw away or use 110 pounds of single-use plastic every year, though just 8% of it is recycled in the U.S., data suggests. You might think that all of those clamshell plastic containers we get from restaurants, food delivery services and grocers are recyclable, but the reality is that not all recycling centers accept them. While these numbers are alarming, the good news is that more restaurants are investing in sustainable packaging, and Dispatch Goods is giving them an outlet to do so.

Dispatch Goods, a Bay Area startup, has set out to combat plastic waste by making it easy for your food to be delivered in reusable packaging, whether you’re a restaurant, caterer, or meal delivery service.

Plastic containers and freezer packs from takeout or delivery are collected by the company, taken back to its facilities to get washed and sanitized before they’re sold back for reuse. Restaurants and customers can text a number that comes on the containers to set up a home pick up. Dispatch Goods has teamed up with companies like DoorDash and Imperfect Foods, a sustainable grocery delivery service.

Dispatch Goods founder Lindsay Hoell says that customers prefer the aesthetics of the steel containers used by Dispatch than the plastic or metal containers that are the norm. “I feel like we’ve gotten so used to eating out of garbage that we forget what it’s like to eat out of nice containers,” she says. “That’s one of the reasons that chefs want to work with us. They’ve gone through all of this to create beautiful dishes, and putting them in something that is used an average of 12 minutes and then ends up in a landfill—I don’t know that it represents their food properly.”

Dispatch goods collects and processes between 10,000 and 15,000 food packages a week and has saved 261,078 items from entering waste streams since 2020.

Big companies invest in eco-friendly innovations 

As rules and regulations surrounding plastic, single-use containers, recycling and indoor dining change globally, some of the world’s biggest companies are eying sustainable tech start-ups to carve out a more eco-friendly future in the hospitality sector.

PourMyBeer, the self-serve beverage company, secured a major funding round from Coca-Cola’s investment arm European Partners for a new concept called PourMyBeverage that dispenses Coca-Cola products without packaging, PourMySoda.

The aim is to create tech that allows consumers to pour their own beverages by cutting down on potentially wasted cups when it comes to refills, freeing up staff and limiting unnecessary contact. The investment was a step towards the Certified Compliance & Ethics Professional’s investment to reduce waste and eliminate unneeded packaging.

As the U.S. continues to make strides on sustainability across all industries, it won’t be long before more businesses start having to implement their own ESG strategies.

Staying in the know about the latest innovations at the intersection of sustainability and hospitality are vital to reducing carbon footprints, connecting with consumers on a more ethical level and increasing overall transparency.


At Branded, we subscribe to the theory that it takes a village. If you’re interested in exploring investment opportunities within the ESG space alongside Branded, please contact us directly.