Environment Food & Drink Opinion UWE

Unethical, unsustainable: Why Subway and Costa may be bad news for UWE

Photo: Jack Fifield

In response to requests for current cafés to have longer opening hours, UWE is opening three more catering chains: Costa, Subway and Crussh, this month on Frenchay Campus. Chains often have complicated supply chains, making it difficult to know where produce is coming from and where the customer’s money is going. Does this fit in with UWE’s sustainability, ethical, environmental policies?

The university say themselves in their Sustainable Implementation Plan: “Climate change is happening; resources are becoming scarcer, global social inequality is worsening, economic crises are cyclically deeper.” Their Sustainability Aim states that it “must become embedded in everything that the University does,” and that they aim “to play a part in supporting the global sustainability agenda for a strong, healthy and just society living within environmental limits”.

The first chain, Costa, has the lowest ethical and environmental score according to Ethical Consumer, receiving 1/10. Costa has been criticised in the past for refusing to pay living wage and for selling non-free-range meat. In 2018, Costa was bought by Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola has a history of worker’s rights violations and a poor environmental track record. The corporation has been accused of taking water supplies from rural communities and fabricating environmental data.

The issue with Subway is a lack of responsibility for deforestation. In 2016, the company scored 5 out of 100 in a report on beef purchasing practises of global food manufacturers by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The 5 points were only because it discloses the location of some of its South American beef suppliers. These practises leave South American forests like the Amazon at risk of being converted to pastures. This deforestation contributes to approximately 10% of all global warming emissions. Subway has also not made any public commitment to lessen deforestation in its beef supply chain.

In the current climate of uncertainty, is it wise for a university that claims sustainability is a priority to give business to more corporate chains? A quick research reveals that local Bristolian brand Boston Tea Party as number-one in terms of ethics and sustainability. Why not choose this chain instead?

[1] House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, Plastic bottles: Turning Back the Plastic Tide, First Report of Session 2017–19https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmenvaud/339/339.pdf

Information about all on-campus food and drink, including opening times, is available on UWE’s website here.

The image in the article has been edited after publication.

Correction: This article incorrectly stated that Crussh stocks a bottled water brand “LIFEWTR, a brand owned by Pepsi. Yet Brad Jakeman, then-president of PepsiCo’s Global Beverage Group, called the brand a millennial-inspired premium water product. Jakeman told Fortune that millennials want sleek bottle designs and labels, viewing the product as a fashion accessory which is “an important part of people’s image.” Nowhere do they talk about being ethical, or even make comment on the fact that 5.5 billion plastic bottles are put into landfill, littered, or incinerated a year[1].” Crussh stocks Life Water, a canned water brand.

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