Recycling cooperatives on iFood's project. Photo: iFood/Courtesy

iFood pledges to be carbon neutral and plastic-free on delivery by 2025

"We will spend as much as necessary to achieve our goal," says Gustavo Vitti, Chief People and Sustainability Officer at iFood

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  • iFood’s goal is at least 50% of deliveries to be made via non-polluting modes by 2025;  
  • Company will invest in innovation, research and development to become a global reference in online delivery operations without environmental impact.

Ordering delivery is a cost for those who have opted for a life with less waste. Orders usually bring plastic that involves the napkin, cutlery, glasses and several packages. When restaurants shut their physical doors due to COVID-19 lockdown policies, delivery became the lifeline for maintaining business. But the increase in online shopping has also led to an increase in solid waste. In June 2020, Abrelpe (Brazilian Association of Public Cleaning and Special Waste Companies) said that e-commerce grew 30% the collection of recyclable materials by recycling cooperatives compared to June 2019. 

To get around this problem, iFood, the leading foodtech in Brazil, announced on Thursday iFood Regenerates, an environmental impact-reduction plan that aims to act to end plastic pollution via its delivery operations, and to become carbon neutral up to four years.

Gustavo Vitti, Chief People and Sustainability Officer at iFood, explains that the pandemic brought new responsibilities to the company, which saw the need to innovate to review the socio-environmental impacts typical of a delivery operation.

READ ALSO: iFood to train and boost employability for 25,000 new tech professionals by 2025

“We looked at many companies, we tried to learn and mirror ourselves in one that was doing something that went beyond CO2 compensation. To be very honest, we found nothing. This project of ours is a pioneer in Brazil, but also abroad,” he said, in an interview with LABS.

No delivery company in the world has these commitments as we are doing now, which is to go far beyond this compensation for plastic and CO2.

Gustavo Vitti, Chief People and Sustainability Officer at iFood. Photo: iFood/Courtesy

The foodtech talked to around 40 environmental experts, opinion makers, and companies like Moss.Earth to understand what society expected from iFood. The company did not disclose the amount that will be invested in the project.

READ ALSO: From Disk Cook to the largest food-tech company in Latin America: iFood Brazil

“We are not going to disclose the value because the price of carbon credit compensation fluctuates a lot, it is complicated to make a forecast based on this, besides to the fact that the volume of iFood changes every minute. To think about what our volume will be in five years, we risked not making this forecast. We will spend as much as necessary to achieve our goal. More than the amount invested, we are committed to the impact,” he says.

iFood’s strategy: to avoid the use of plastic, recycle what is already in circulation and invest in cooperatives

The solution that iFood has found is to avoid the use of plastic and recycle what circulates, offering the entire user base the in-app the choice of whether or not to receive plastic cutlery and other disposable items. Also in the app, the company created a badge to recognize the good environmental practices of registered restaurants.

READ ALSO: iFood starts offering digital bank accounts for all its partner restaurants

“We want to reduce the number of plastic items as much as we can. Whatever we are unable to reduce, we are committed to increasing the country’s recycling capacity, ”he said.

How? Focusing efforts on developing and promoting packaging made from raw materials from renewable sources, such as paper. iFood will invest in the innovation of recycling cooperatives in Brazil to transform the entire national supply chain for plastic-free packaging, from production to marketing and logistics.

This, according to Vitti, will bring a more competitive price for these industries, which already exist, but do not have a scale of production and demand.

READ ALSO: Brazilian micromobility firm Tembici hits BRL 100 million in revenues and plans to enter the last-mile delivery market

Another initiative is the investment in improving the structures and machinery of the cooperatives and in the construction of a new semi-mechanized sorting plant in São Paulo, which has the potential to increase recycling rates in the city and increase the income of the cooperative members.

The company is already undertaking initiatives with recycling companies, such as the “I was a bag” project, for recycling the thermal backpacks used by couriers.

Seamstress in the iFood project ‘I was a bag’. Photo: iFood/Courtesy

“Since 2019, we have correctly disposed of more than 80 tons of these materials, in a ‘zero landfill’ project model. Even though they are difficult to recycle, the bags still gain new use as market bags. Some of these bags are already being used in delivery orders replacing plastic bags from markets in São Paulo.”

iFood emitted 128,000 tons of CO2 in 2020 and wants to go beyond offsetting

Another initiative of the program is to measure, reduce and neutralize all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the iFood operation. Last year alone, the company emitted 128,000 tons of CO2.

iFood entered into a partnership with Moss.Earth, a technology company in the carbon market, that developed the GHG inventory. The document, whose base year is 2020, covers emission scopes 1, 2, and 3, that is, iFood’s carbon offset credits cover all emissions from orders placed last year. These emissions will be neutralized by investing in environmental preservation and reforestation projects.

“Besides carbon offsetting, we want to be net-zero emissions. We want to reduce as much emission as possible with non-polluting modes. There are another projects in our pipeline, such as encouraging the change of carburetor to reduce the emission of the motorcycle on combustion.”

In October 2020, iFood launched the iFood Pedal project, in partnership with Tembici, a project that offers affordable plans for the rental of electric bikes by couriers.

According to iFood, today there are more than 2,000 couriers registered on the iFood Pedal who share 1,000 electric bikes in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. “We started in Rio de Janeiro last week and in the next 12 months we will open in three more capitals,” he said.

iFood wants half of the orders to be delivered in non-polluting modes (bicycle, scooter, electric bike) by 2025. The company has signed a partnership with the automaker Voltz, which specialized in e-bikes, and will start the pilot project at the beginning of the next month with 30 electric motorbikes that will be tested by couriers.

iFood thermal backpack recycling project. Photo: iFood/Courtesy

In up to a year, iFood wants to reach 10,000 electric motorcycles being used by couriers. To this end, iFood entered into a partnership with two banks (which have not yet released their names) to create a special credit line for couriers to buy electric motorcycles.

Vitti explains that through the credit line it will be more attractive for the delivery partner to buy an electric motorcycle than a combustion motorcycle. “We will encourage people to get to know these bikes in a completely free manner. These bikes have a good cost-benefit, it is very cheap.”

How to encourage people to buy a motorcycle that people don’t know about? We are going to lend these electric bikes to some couriers so they can test and find out.


Also, iFood’s offices started to make rational use of resources, reusing water. They will also have cleaner sources of energy. The company’s headquarters in Osasco, São Paulo, will have a green roof for food distribution in surrounding communities. The production capacity of the garden can reach around 1 tonne monthly.

READ ALSO: Agriculture in the city: the healthy trend of Farm Techs in Brazil

“We signed this commitment super fast so that in less than five years we can reach all these super aggressive goals. We hope that we can serve as inspiration for many delivery companies in Brazil, such as Magalu, Mercado Libre, B2W, Uber Eats, Rappi. We want this to become a habit,” says Vitti.