Today, students from Drexel University and Temple University joined NRDC at Aramark’s Annual Shareholder Meeting in Philadelphia. Together, we called for the company—the country’s second largest seller of meals—to shift its menus away from climate-intensive foods toward climate-healthy plant-based food. Specifically, we asked for a 20 percent reduction in emissions from red meat, dairy and other foods associated with high levels of climate pollution.
In front of a large, inflatable liberty bell that recalled Philadelphia’s history of revolution and change, students asked the company that runs their cafeterias to ‘Help Liberate Us from Climate Change.’ Inside the meeting, NRDC Health Campaigns Director Sujatha Bergen asked Aramark’s Board of Directors and CEO John Zillmer to make the commitment.
“Unfortunately, while we have been engaged with Aramark for years about the need to reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of your menus, not enough progress has been made,” stated Ms. Bergen. “And in the meantime, millions of young people, many of them students on the campuses you serve, are in the streets asking for change.”
Ms. Bergen went on to describe upcoming efforts to convince the company to reduce the climate footprint of its menus.
“Over the coming months, NRDC will be working on campuses across the country to engage more students in this issue—you will be hearing from more of them in the coming months. They will look to ensure that their dining service provider is committed to combatting climate change. They want to feel good about the money they are paying to keep Aramark on campus. If they are not provided strong company commitment to shift menus away from climate-intensive foods, they may call for change.”
She concluded with the following question “To kick off this campus campaign, I want to ask—since the students themselves can’t be in the room. Will Aramark make this commitment to reduce its purchases of climate-intensive foods and their greenhouse gas footprint by 20%?”
The presence of NRDC and the students they serve at Aramark’s annual shareholder meeting comes on the heels of 20,000 emails from NRDC members and activists calling for the commitment. In 2019, more than 70 organizations, including the Sierra Club, Humane Society of the United States and OXFAM signed a letter that called upon the company to reduce the climate impact of its menus.
Despite these calls to action, Aramark has yet to adopt a specific commitment to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the food it serves. Its December sustainability plan failed to establish a goal for emissions reductions and target emissions associated with its menus.
NRDC is disappointed in Aramark’s failure to set strong targets to reduce the climate impacts of its menus, especially in the face of calls from the United Nations and numerous other experts that point to a shift in consumption as key to battling climate change.
We hope that Aramark will make the decision to align itself with its customers and move forward with strong action to reduce its emissions and through plant-forward menus.