Sweetgreen Inc. spent a good part of 2020 reorganizing its operations to manage a
pandemic-related drop in sales.

Now, with dining restrictions and capacity limits slowly rolling back, the Culver City-based fast-casual restaurant chain can look further down the line. And a key focus for the company is to become carbon neutral by 2027.

“Simply put, we believe it’s the right thing to do for our business and for the planet,” co-founder and Chief Concept Officer Nicolas Jammet said in a statement. “With the food system driving 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the time for change is now.”

Sweetgreen, which has 118 restaurants and nearly 4,000 employees, kicked off the effort in 2019 by hiring Toronto-based Watershed Technology Inc. to take an inventory of total greenhouse gas emissions produced by the company’s operations.

The findings showed that Sweetgreen “emits less carbon per dollar of revenue than food industry standards” but can improve by focusing on food sourcing, menu development, and how it builds its restaurants, according to the company. Sweetgreen also looked at carbon emissions of some of its suppliers, which helped the company calculate the carbon footprint for its menu items. It plans to use the data to guide its future sourcing and menu selection decisions.

When it comes to its restaurants, Sweetgreen said it will focus on “everything from the physical infrastructure of a restaurant to the power and energy we use to keep it running.”

The restaurant chain debuted in 2007, when Jammet and two college friends, Nathaniel Ru and Jonathan Neman, opened a small eatery near the Georgetown University campus. By the time they moved the company’s headquarters to Culver City in 2016, it had 39 locations.

Sweetgreen has raised about $500 million to date, including a 2019 investment round for $150 million that boosted the company’s valuation to $1.6 billion.

Sweetgreen ended 2019 with about $300 million in revenue, but like many other companies in the hospitality industry, it faced setbacks in 2020 with the closure of indoor dining.

To cope with the challenges posed by the pandemic, Sweetgreen introduced curbside pickup, launched delivery via its app, and in October reduced 20% of its corporate workforce.  

The company is still on schedule to move its headquarters in 2022 to Exposition 3, a 94,000-square-foot creative office property in West Adams.

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