Sustainable UCL


UCL Healthy and Sustainable Food Policy

This policy covers all catering, hospitality and vending services operating under the UCL centrally managed catering contract including temporary facilities where in use.

UCL knows that to change the future, we have to show that change is possible. Food is one such challenge and we recognise the considerable influence the University has in being able to deliver and encourage healthy and sustainable food production and consumption.

In order to do so, this policy covers all of the catering, hospitality and vending services operating under the UCL centrally managed catering contract including temporary facilities where in use.

This Policy directly supports UCL Sustainability Strategy 2019-2024, with aims aligned to our Foundations and Signature Programmes. Link to PDF version of the policy.



UCL knows that to inspire change you need to show that a different way is possible:

  • We will let our community know sustainable food production is possible and our operation will showcase the best practice in food provision.
  • We will deliver plastic-free catering at UCL to meet our pledge to be a single-use-plastic-free campus
  • Our kitchens and outlets will be test beds for research and studies, to connect our researchers and communities to redefine the possible.

Positive Climate

New possibilities for our local and global environment:

  • We will seek local, and seasonal produce for all of our menus 
  • We will lead the move to sustainable, plant-based diets, and offer 100% vegetarian events. 
  • Our catering operation in the refectory will be energy, water and resource-efficient to meet our pledge to be carbon neutral by 2024, and zero carbon by 2030
  • We will assess and communicate the climate footprint of the food we offer

The Loop

New possibilities for products, people and planet:

  • We will purchase ingredients and products that do not harm the planet, by seeking the highest ethical and environmental certifications 
  • We will trace our products, to understand where and how they are made, and by who, auditing our supply for ethical practices and aiming to eliminate Modern Day Slavery
  • We will expand existing waste food redistribution schemes to meet our pledge to reduce waste per person by 20% by 2024
  • We will support our communities to move to sustainable, plant-based diets.
  • We will switch disposable items to sustainable, reusable alternatives.

Wild Bloomsbury

New possibilities for our central London home:

  • We will reconnect people to nature, through developing understandings of food production and consumption.

Commitments and Targets

We will:

Food and Sustainability Standards

  • Achieve 3 star in the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) Food Made Good award, across all outlets by 2022
  • Achieve a score of 90% or above for the University on the Sustainable Food section of the People and Planet (P&P) University League ranking.
  • Achieve and maintain Fairtrade University Accreditation
  • Achieve and maintain ISO 50001 (energy management) and ISO 14001 (Environmental Management).
  • Marine Stewardship Council certification for all outlets

Key performance indicators

SRA 3 Star 2021/2022   ANNUALLY
P&P 100% 2021/2022   ANNUALLY 


  • Ensure catering provider/s will nominate a representative for UCL Sustainable Food Working Group
  • Conduct customer surveys will be undertaken throughout the year to obtain feedback on menus, prices, quality, sustainability and choice.
  • Sustainability performance will be recorded and published including through the use of social media.
  • Provide training and education and promote recipes in line with Government nutritional standards. To provide positive promotion of sustainable food and healthy eating options and benefits as least once a week during term time.
  • Ensure all catering staff undertake sustainable catering training.
  • Wherever possible, support students and academic staff who wish to carry out healthy and sustainable food research, including of UCL’s food system, to provide transparency. To provide purchasing, sale and waste data.

Key performance indicators

No. customer feedback responses   TERMLY
No. research projects supported      TERMLY

Ethical Sourcing & Employment

  • In support of London’s status as a Fairtrade City, ensure all tea, coffee, bananas, chocolate (confectionary, coco powder, drinking chocolate) and sugar are Fairtrade certified.
  • Identify the ethically traded products we purchase as verified by the Fairtrade Foundation or similar
  • Buy Fairtrade confectionary and drinks, and look to increase sales of these products.
  • Only sell Fairtrade chocolate in our outlets.
  • When buying fruit from outside of EU and USA, we will firstly aim for Fairtrade certified
  • Aim to increase our ethically traded offers as more products become available.
  • Increase the use of Fairtrade ingredients in food preparation kitchens annually.
  • Ensure all employees are paid London Living Wage.
  • Where possible, ensure members of the supply chain are also be paid Real Living Wage (or London Living Wage if London based).

Key performance indicators

% all tea, coffee, bananas, chocolate and sugar Fairtrade (100%)     MONTHLY
% of confectionary/drinks sales which are Fairtrade products (increase 5% per annum)   TERMLY
% of Fairtrade ingredients purchased (increase 5% per annum)   TERMLY
% of direct suppliers paying living wage   ANNUALLY

Fruit and Vegetables

Ensure that all of our hospitality menus include seasonal produce and will report on this activity. We will report % of seasonal produce purchased.

Aim to purchase fruit and vegetables LEAF-Marque certification and Organic certification.

Key performance indicators

% of all fruit and vegetables which are seasonal (50%)     MONTHLY      

Meat and Dairy

  • Reduce meat content in our meals and offerings to support sustainable food consumption.
  • All meat will be Red Tractor Farm Assured or sourced from suppliers who can demonstrate equivalent welfare standards.
  • Ensure all raw meat is fully traceable to the farm it came from. Where possible to be traced the individual animal from the farm.
  • Commit to working within the five freedoms framework set out by the Farm Animal Welfare Council supplemented by Red Tractor assured standards where appropriate
  • Where possible, increase RSPCA assured poultry.
  • Ensue animal casings shall be of the same species as the meat used. 
  • Where possible we will use dairy products which are certified organic and we will aim to increase the proportion of such produce over time.
  • Ensure milk alternatives to cow’s milk is offered at same price

Key performance indicators

% of UK sourced meat red tractor approved (100%)  MONTHLY
Reduction in meat content of meals (10% on annum) ANUNALLY
50% of all outlet menus to be vegetarian or vegan options    MONTHLY
Increase % dairy products which are certified organic (10% on annum) ANNUALLY


  • As a minimum, all fish products to carry Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) chain of custody certification and/or rates 1 or 3 on the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) Good Fish Guide
  • Monitor changes to the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) Good Fish Guide and will not serve any products on the red list of ‘fish to avoid’.
  • We will serve a range of fish, particularly beyond the Big 5 (prawns, cod, haddock, salmon, tuna).
  • Ensure tinned tuna where provided, will be pole or line caught as well as MSC certified.  We will not use tuna caught by purse seine nets with Fish Aggregation Devices.
  • We will use fresh tuna suppliers who are members of International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) or if an importer, we will ensure they buy their tuna from a company that is a member of ISSF.
  • Promote sustainable fish and seafood particularly within the hospitality service and will remain signatories to the Sustainable Fish City Pledge. 

Key performance indicators

% of fish sold which is not Big 5 (50%)   TERMLY
% of fresh tuna from ISSF suppliers or importers (100%)   TERMLY
Monthly review of MSC Good Fish Guide    MONTHLY
% of fish MSC certified TERMLY
% of fish MCS 1-3 rated  TERMLY


  • Only buy free range eggs.
  • Only by free range egg based products.
  • Key performance indicator 
  • % of eggs free range (100%)  TERMLY
  • Palm Oil/Soya Products
  • Only use products containing palm oil which has Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification by 2022
  • Only use soya products that are certified by the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) or ProTerra by 2022
  • Research and investigate our products to understand sources of palm oil and soy.

Key performance indicators

% of palm oil products containing sustainable palm oil (30%)  TERMLY
% of soya products containing sustainable soy  TERMLY
No. of products researched/investigated (5 per annum) ANNUALLY


  • Not provide single-use bottled water in the hospitality service.
  • Use either tap water in jugs or purified still and sparkling tap water bottled using re-usable branded glass bottles in the hospitality service
  • Make free drinking water available at all catering outlets.
  • Reduce water consumption of the catering operation in the refectory and New Student Centre from our baseline and plans will be developed to reduce usage across all site.

Key performance indicators

% of hospitality events using reusable water bottles or jugs (90%) MONTHLY
Bottled water sales   TERMLY
Water consumption reduction (10% per annum) ANNUALLY

Food Choices for the UCL Community

  • Maintain regular contact with Staff and Student groups to identify any on-going or specific cultural and religious dietary requirements.
  • Provide a range of menu choices at all outlets which will include a diverse variety of vegetarian and vegan choices
  • Provide sustainability ratings for all meals within our refectories and outlets.
  • Work with the Student communities and societies to survey students and find out student food preferences, including with regards to vegetarian and vegan food.
  • List vegetarian food first on menus above meat-based choices.
  • Promote a move to plant based diets, by reducing the meat content of meals, in favour of vegetables.
  • Ensue as a minimum 50% of an outlet’s offers will be vegan or vegetarian
  • Make vegan choices available as standard in vegetarian  options; at least 50% of vegetarian offers will be vegan also
  • Be able to provide a varied 100% vegetarian offer for hospitality, and will actively promote this.
  • Ensure as a minimum 50% of vegetarian hospitality offers will also be vegan.
  • Provide at least one vegan option within hospitality, catering and accommodation offers
  • Ensure Vegan milk is clearly signposted and offered at coffee points,  at same price as cow’s milk
  • Participate in and promote Meat Free Monday

Key performance indicators

% of vegetarian & vegan offers in outlets (70%)   MONTHLY
% of vegan meal sales in outlets (20%)   TERMLY
% of vegetarian or vegan sales in outlets (50%)    TERMLY
% of hospitality events which are 100% vegetarian TERMLY


  • We continually review the nutritional quality of our food and are committed to the following:
  • Reduce salt, saturated and unsaturated fat levels, in line with Department for Health guidance
  • Bread products will not contain high levels of unnecessary ingredients including salt and additives
  • Remove hydrogenated fat and other unnecessary additives from all food and ingredients
  • Use healthier cooking oils and cooking methods
  • Promote dishes containing a high proportion of wholegrain foods, fruit and vegetables
  • Where possible (retail, standard lines of food) we will label products with Guideline Daily Amounts maintained by the Food and Drink Federation and a Traffic light system.

Key performance indicator

% of products/offers with food labels and traffic light systems presented   MONTHLY

Supply Chain and SMEs

  • Use our purchasing power to effect positive economic, environmental and social change; suppliers recognise they must continually improve their sustainability impact to keep business.
  • Always firstly try to buy locally and seasonally to support UK producers, the local community and local economy and reduce environmental impacts associated with importing produce.
  • Investigate and audit our supply chain.- for environmental management , ethical working conditions and modern slavery
  • Maintain business relationships with SMEs through our catering partner which will be reviewed and recorded annually.
  • Aim to pay all agreed invoices within 30 days of receipt where possible.

Key performance indicators

% of produce locally sourced ie, within 50 miles of London (30%)  TERMLY
No. of SME’s supported through the contract (2 per annum)  ANNUALLY


  • Reduce energy consumption of the catering operation in the refectory and New Student Centre from our baseline and plans will be developed to reduce usage across all sites.
  • Always purchase A-rated, high efficiency appliances and equipment for catering purposes.

Key performance indicator

Energy consumption reduction (10% reduction per annum)  ANNUALLY

Deliveries and Logistics

  • Monitor supplier deliveries to reduce food miles.
  • Ensue all vehicles  will be electrically operated

Key performance indicator

% of vehicles electric powered (100%)  ANNUALLY

Waste Management, Serveware and Packaging

UCL has committed to be single-use plastic free by 2024 . To do so we will:

  • Make non disposable options available and clearly advertised for all catering offers at the University
  • Provide reusable mugs, cutlery, plates and cups
  • Ensue where disposables must be used then they are to made from environmentally friendly products or must be able to be recycled  - minimise environmental impacts and be as recyclable as
  • Serve milk, condiments and sauces in re-fillable containers;
  • Record the volumes of waste arising from the catering operation monthly.
  • Achieve a 10% annual waste reduction in food waste.
  • Divert any surplus food fit for consumption through redistribution apps or Zero Food Waste UCL or similar schemes.
  • Ensure all remaining food waste is disposed of through digestion, composting or energy recovery and no material will be sent to landfill
  • Analyse our waste streams to collect data and understand how to reduce them
  • Follow UCL’s waste segregation policies
  • Work with suppliers to reduce packaging and use reusable packaging.
  • Used coffee grounds to be made readily available at all coffee outlets for customers to use in their gardens. Surplus to be collected by Biobean
  • Ensure Surplus coffee grounds are collected for processing into biofuel.

In hospitality we will:

  • Where required, adjust food portions in line with customer preferences to reduce food waste.
  • Work with suppliers to reduce packaging and use reusable packaging wherever practicable.
  • Avoid the use of disposable cutlery, plates and cups
  • Where disposables must be used then they are to made from environmentally friendly products or must be able to be recycled  as above
  • Serve milk, condiments and sauces in re-usable containers;
  • Ensure waste glass are segregated separately where glass collection are available.

Key performance indicators

Quantity of disposable cutlery, plates and cups used (catering and hospitality)  MONTHLY
Food waste generation per meal sold   TERMLY
Number of unwanted meals redistributed/sold (750 per annum)   TERMLY


This Policy has been developed by UCL Estates, UCL Procurement and Sustainable UCL. The UCL Sustainable Food Working Group will review and update this policy.


This Policy must be followed by all UCL catering activity across UCL outlets and halls of residences. All tenders and contracts for catering services across UCL including campus, halls of residences, graduation and events must support this policy. Where the contract is one off of or smaller in scale, the policy is reviewed, to identify which requirements are suitable and reasonable to require.

Auditing / Reporting

UCL’s main catering provider must report progress against the policy aims, targets and KPIs. A reporting framework must be developed, approved by the catering contract manager, sustainable UCL and the caterers, with monthly, quarterly, and yearly reporting requirements.

The catering contract performance, including sustainability measures, will be reported to senior management - Director Estates Ops and Head of Commercial Services.

The SRA Food Made Good Scheme must be adopted for the UCL catering contract, and will provide the framework for continuous improvement and benchmarking. As part of the contract, UCL will commission an external catering consultant to conduct a full independent review of the contract performance, which will include all sustainability KPIs and this policy.

Last updated: Sunday, July 10, 2022

Review: This Policy will be reviewed in July 2023