Food delivery company Deliveroo will be serving up a free little extra with every order from today.
It’s not a free bag of chips or complimentary prawn crackers – although that would be nice.
Instead, Australia’s second largest food deliverer will purchase carbon offsets on the customer’s behalf. The aim, the company has said, is to lower the environmental impact of their order and make the dinner time delivery “guilt free”.
It claims to be the only food delivery operation in Australia to offer the freebie. The firm reckons it can offset 16,000 tonnes of carbon annually or the equivalent of taking 4609 cars off the road.
“By carbon offsetting all our deliveries for the next two years, the delivery component of our business will become carbon neutral at no cost to our restaurant partners or customers,” Deliveroo Australia Chief Executive Officer, Ed McManus, said.
However, there are concerns about the effectiveness of some carbon offset programs.
RELATED: Ready meal sales double in lockdown
HOW CARBON OFFSETTING WORKS
Australia has one of the world’s highest per capita rates of climate emissions, much of that due to the heavy use of coal to create electricity. The government has an aim of reducing emissions to around 28 per cent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade; a deadline which a 2019 United Nations report found Australia was likely to miss.
Carbon offsetting works by funding projects that help reduce emissions, such as planting trees that suck in carbon dioxide, which can balance out the emissions caused by the product or service being used.
As a vehicle used to deliver your meal will create emissions, carbon offsetting may dial down the environmental impact caused.
UK based Deliveroo has 8000 riders in Australia – a number it said had gone up by 25 per cent in a year. More than 90 per cent of deliveries are by motorbike, scooter or car which do indeed pump out nasties.
Unlike many carbon offset schemes, this one doesn’t depend on the customer opting in and paying extra – the company will pay all the costs.
Restaurants and cafes also won’t be stung and the company has insisted to news.com.au it’s not ramping up prices to fund the initiative. It would not reveal how much the program would cost.
“Emissions will be covered for the full Deliveroo order, from the point of the rider’s departure to the restaurant, to the consumer’s drop off destination,” the company said.
Deliveroo will purchase carbon offsets in three projects. One is the Bierbank and Lanherne regeneration project near Quilpie in south west Queensland where native forests are being re-established on land that had been cleared for agriculture. A controlled burns program in Cape York and off shore wind farms will also be invested in.
“This is an important first step for Deliveroo, but we know there is still much to be done. We’re committed to ongoing action to achieve environmental sustainability across all our business operations and will seek new ways to make sure Australians can enjoy amazing food wherever and whenever they want it in a sustainable way,” McManus added.
Deliveroo has estimated its projected emissions for the next two years and paid for the offsets upfront. But it said it would buy more offsets if its emissions rose above that level.
Steven Marks, head of Mexican food chain Guzman y Gomez, said food delivery wasn’t going away, so there was a “moral obligation” to make the service more sustainable.
“I’m genuinely impressed that Deliveroo recognises what is important to customers and is doing the right thing by all of us.
“I truly believe that this is one of the key issues for our younger generations and they are collectively our current and future customers.”
CONCERNS WITH SOME CARBON OFFSET SCHEMES
Carbon offset schemes have come in for flak, however. Some environmental schemes may have happened with or without cash from offset initiatives so it’s questionable whether there is any additional reduction in emissions above what would have happened anyway.
And while no one doubts planting trees is a good thing, for trees to fully be effective they need to be maintained over long periods. If they burn down, for instance, the trees just release the carbon they’ve been storing.
Some environmental groups say the best way to reduce carbon emissions isn’t to offset it but to produce less of it in the first place.
Nevertheless, the chief executive officer of environmental charity EarthWatch Australia Fiona Wilson praised the food deliverer’s plan and said that all companies needed to act to reduce emissions.
“Deliveroo, by offsetting its carbon emissions, is taking a clear stand that climate action is urgent and that the business is ready to take a leading role.”
Deliveroo’s Mr McManus told news.com.au that the carbon offsets was one of a number of environmental actions it had done which also included reusable and recyclable packaging and the option to turn down cutlery.
“By investing in carbon offsetting Deliveroo is taking the most immediate and effective action it can to become more sustainable. We will continue to look at ways we can make a tangible difference.”
In May, Deliveroo said lockdowns had changed the dinner habits of Australians. We’d turned to comfort food with orders for traditional fish and chips soaring.
Dinner times have also changed, with the apps evening spike in food orders moving forward 43 minutes.
Whereas 7.06pm was peak ordering time, it shifted to 6.23pm as more people worked from home.