foodpanda: Sustainability is About Encouraging Positive Change, Not Shame

Teo Dawn

Climate change and global warming can be felt everyday, with some instances being our rising temperatures and the changing patterns of illnesses, animals and inflation today. However, despite some initiatives to push for sustainability to be prioritised and with the SG Climate Rally taking place tomorrow, Singapore as a whole doesn’t seem to be disciplined of committed enough to tackling this issue with urgency.

Fortunately, we do have brands here that are actively taking a stand to promote sustainability and come up with concrete measures to reduce waste and plastics one day at a time. And it does not always have to come across as a dull chore. You definitely can have good fun while not compromising the earth any further.

foodpanda Singapore held the ultimate block party earlier this September to show all of us how effortlessly both can be achieved at the same time — taking over the iconic Amoy Street with music, bites & vibes.

Popspoken finds out more from Laura Kantor, Head of Marketing and Sustainability, foodpanda Singapore, on their sustainability initiatives and what we can do as consumers to be more environmentally responsible. 

Popspoken: Being sustainable towards the environment seems to be a priority for foodpanda, can you share with us your initiatives and why it is so important.

foodpanda’s sustainability movement was born as a passion project – I have always been passionate about the environment and how we can be more environmentally conscious in our everyday lives, and realised how much we can make an impact at foodpanda. With such a huge network of restaurant partners and customers, we realised that our influence could really enable customers to make positive changes in their habits.

Many businesses still operate with the notion that going green is expensive and mutually exclusive to business growth, but this is not true, especially with the rise of the conscious consumer and advancements in technology. We were able to demonstrate to restaurant partners, as an example, that cutlery initiatives actually save them money whilst having a positive environmental impact.

There are three key pillars shaping our sustainability agenda this year – further reducing plastic usage & unnecessary packaging, introducing conscious eating habits and minimising food waste.

In January 2018, we piloted an opt-in cutlery function in Singapore, encouraging our customers to go without plastic cutlery with their orders. It was really well received and following its success, we rolled out the initiative across the region in Hong Kong, Thailand and the Philippines, and saved over 1.5 million sets in the process. While there has been great results so far, there is still a lot of work to be done – and we plan to roll this out further across our APAC markets by the end of this year.

Conscious eating habits are also important – in January this year we launched meat free mondays, offering free delivery to customers who order from selected vegetarian & vegan outlets. We’re also launching Happy Hour with an Impact, in partnership with CHOOOSE next month, which will make all orders made between 2pm-3pm on the first Friday of each month carbon positive.

Sustainability isn’t about shaming people for the choices that they make, but rather encouraging people to make a difference in a positive way. For instance, as we wanted to reduce plastic usage, rather than charging customers for cutlery which may be seen as negative, we commit to gifting $5 for every 5 orders customers make while opting out of cutlery. We also went as far as targeting those customers who regularly opt in (and believe me, there are still a lot..!) a $10 voucher if they opt out of their next three orders. We saw such an improvement in customer habits since then, that we’re working on more initiatives to drive positive change.

Earlier this year, we also partnered with selected restaurants to give out a range of reusable items to our customers to help reduce reliance on single-use plastics. The range includes a metal straw, a KeepCup, a metal cutlery set and a cotton tote bag.

PS: What was done differently for bites & vibes 2019 to minimise waste and maximise fun?

We know that one of the major sources of waste from festivals is single-use plastics. To tackle this head-on at this year’s bites & vibes, we made it mandatory for all our vendors to remove single-use plastic items from their operations and use biodegradable packaging instead – and this was strictly enforced on the event day itself.

In order to minimise food waste, we also used our previous event data at Garden Beats & bites & vibes 2018 to calculate the number of servings per stall to ensure minimal food waste.

In addition, we also gave out reusable cups and provided water fountains on site – offering free water all day. Guests were also encouraged to bring their own reusable bottles along. Through games and raffles on site, guests could also win multiple reusable items – from a cutlery set to water bottles and tote bags.

PS: Tell us more about how you went about curating your partners. 

Besides CBD favourites, such as Chico Loco, Sarnies and Fill-a-Pita, we also partnered with restaurants that were popular but located slightly further away and not as accessible in the CBD area, such as 25 Degrees, Kult Kafe and Acai Collective. Besides diversity, it was also important that the F&B partners that were at bites & vibes shared similar values and passion for the environment as foodpanda does.

For the entertainment, we had a very strong focus on supporting local talent, such as KiDG, DJ Orio and our very own rider, DJ Heffny.

PS: As consumers, what sort of choices can we make to be more environmentally friendly?

Sometimes, it’s not about what big or grand gestures you can make, but the everyday things you can change which will positively impact the environment, for instance:

  • Going ‘topless’: while the name of this relatively new movement is probably not as exciting as it sounds, but it’s as simple as not getting a plastic lid on your morning coffee.
  • Doing away with the plastic carrier that comes with our iced tea
  • Saying no to straws – restaurants like Lucha Loco and KFC recently removed these
  • Bringing along a reusable cup for drinks or a lunch box for food takeaways – a lot of restaurants even give discounts or perks if you do such as Cedele and SaladStop
  • Meat free Mondays – becoming Vegetarian may seem like a scary prospect for those meat lovers out there, but consciously choosing to give up meat every Monday is still a good start at reducing your carbon footprint!

PS: Do you believe we can party hard while saving the environment?

Of course! Sustainability is not a mutually exclusive concept. Rather, it has to be at the heart of everything you do instead of being an afterthought. I think that the responsibility lies with both consumers and event organisers. By taking small steps, it can make a big difference. Take for example, plastic straws and cutlery at festivals – there are so many available alternatives so do we really need it?  If everyone started saying no to this – that in itself would be a huge feat. For bites & vibes, we were committed to being a minimal-waste event and eliminating the use of single-use plastics. We will continue pushing the boundaries on how sustainable and eco-friendly a festival can be.


Find out more about what foodpanda has to offer here.

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