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According to a study by NHS England, hospital food and catering operations alone are responsible for the equivalent of 1.5 kilotonnes of CO2 per year – or 6% of the whole of the NHS’s greenhouse gas emissions. 

It’s just one area for action, as the National Health Service has committed to start a journey towards being a zero carbon organisation. 

It’s a journey that more and more organisations and businesses are committing to. But without a clear roadmap of how to get there, it can be a hard task. What it does demand, is embarking on a series of small steps, across all parts of the business – from greener buildings and transport, to cutting carbon in day-to-day operations. 

In this article Nicola Davidson, Client Procurement Lead, shares some real project examples the Pelican team carried out in order to support clients in reducing their carbon footprint and overall improve their sustainability.

Reducing food miles and buying locally

During the pandemic, we’ve all seen a rise in courier deliveries to residential addresses, as we shop more online – providing a vivid demonstration of how deliveries create CO2 emissions.

Providing an improved sustainable supply-chain is key to all of our NHS clients and our Client Procurement Managers are leading a number of initiatives including:

  • Review of category purchasing – sourcing fresh produce from local suppliers to reduce food miles and support local communities
  • Consolidation of products and alignment of procurement through different departments, has reduced the number of deliveries arriving at the site and has created cost savings.

Cutting single use plastics

We’re continuing to work with clients to reduce – and even eliminate – the consumption of single use plastics. Often, it is possible to source products and packaging that are produced using more sustainable materials, recyclable and made from recycled materials. 

In some circumstances, such as drinking straws, the particular requirements of the NHS can be more challenging, and demand alternative thinking. For example, we have supported clients to look at a range of drinking cups that avoid the need for a straw, while being mindful of patient dignity. 

Sometimes a change in purchasing habits can have substantial positive impact – such as buying a different pack size. Pelican have recently supported one NHS Trust to switch from 1 litre to 2 litre milk bottles, significantly reducing the amount of plastic – and also delivering a significant cost saving. We also introduced milk pergals onto a recent dairy tender, substantially cutting plastic use.

Measuring and celebrating success

Improving sustainability is a worthy aim, but it needs to be measured, so that reduction targets can be hit, and the consequences of change are fully understood. At Pelican, we help clients measure the impact of changes they make, provide an audit trail and enable them to apply for accreditation to industry sustainability schemes

Our tendering process also allows us to share sustainability strategies and targets with suppliers, ensuring they are on the same journey, and are measuring their own progress.

Across the board

There are plenty more areas to consider, from meat-free menus to better food waste management, that can all have a positive impact on the environment. Pelican also provides advanced technology, Pi, which includes online ordering, stock management, menu & allergen management, digital meal ordering solutions and so much more. Put simply, Pi is like a Swiss Army Knife – offering a wide range of digital tools that help hospitality operators to digitalise their processes, streamline their work, comply with legislation, reduce their waste and of course cut costs.

Need help to reduce your carbon footprint?

The Pelican team is on the journey with you – do ask us how we can help you meet your sustainability goals, we are here to help you. Contact us at

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