Founded in May 2020, Re:Dish is a New York based startup focused on reducing waste by providing reusable dishware as a service. Its focus is enterprise-scale foodservice operations such as corporate cafeterias, cultural venues, and K-12 schools. Similar to linen or uniform services, this service delivers clean products like to-go containers and cups, collects the used products, washes them in their facility, and repeats (Source: ReDish, 2022).

The overarching questions Re:Dish for trying to find answers for was: How are companies handling sustainability and ESG reporting, especially Scope 3?

The team consisted of 5 Columbia University graduate students pursuing their masters in Sustainability Management and Science. The team was introduced to Re:Dish through the SUMA Net Impact board, and had a virtual meeting kickoff as well as an on-site visit to the client’s facility. The team distilled the project brief into sub tasks to ensure deliverables could be divided and timelines could be met: the sub tasks were primary & secondary research, and recommendations.

The primary research team outlined the interview tool, which was standardized to pull insights from, and yet, flexible enough for the variety of conversations. The team initially faced challenges in outreach, but was able to overcome this with the support of the Columbia University network and the client’s connections. The team reached out to 50 interviewees through and successfully conducted 12 interviews with practitioners from various fields; sustainability consultants, ESG reporting experts, and in house sustainability managers. The secondary research team focused on acquiring information from sources that are readily available on the internet, as well as research reports from the Columbia University library and information systems.

After completing these two tasks, the team synthesized its findings to create a report and a reporting framework checklist for the most commonly used tools. The team shared its findings of this report for feedback with Columbia University adjunct professor, Jon Dicksinson, who provided specialized insights for Re:Dish.

Drawing from our key findings and secondary research, the team developed a number of recommendations for Re:Dish to consider going forward.

  1. Have easily integratable data ready to go for Re:Dish clients.
  2. Use the existing LCA for a single Re:Dish to compare to commonly-used materials and translate this into CO2e/unit of weight.
  3. Emphasize the value of reducing overall Scope 3 emissions without focusing on a specific category.
  4. Find synergies between Re:Dish and Sustainability Frameworks and Guidelines

The team also developed visual tools, including  reporting framework checklist and emissions reporting guide to complement the analysis.

In March of 2022, the SEC gave initial approval to a rule that would mandate public companies to report on climate-related impacts, including their Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Given this context, our work with Re:Dish has become even more relevant. Scope 3 emissions are becoming increasingly important and within reach for public companies to access and report.

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