Author: Dave Brooks
Date: January 22,2008

Aramark’s Convention Centers and Cultural Attractions
Division has announced plans to expand its environmental initiative
across all its facilities. Venues Today spoke with Jami Leveen,
director of Marketing for Aramark Convention Centers & Cultural
Attractions, to discuss how the company would implement the new
strategy. Venues Today: How did this initiative come to fruition?
Jami Leveen: It’s not something we started from scratch. If
you look at our accounts, specifically on the West Coast, we have a
number of clients like the Anaheim (Calif.) Convention Center, the
L.A. Convention Center and accounts in Portland, Ore., and Seattle
that are already doing many of the things we are rolling out now.
They’re using local products and working with their building
clientele to reduce waste. We realized there is an opportunity for
us to take the best practices and create a centralized repository
that we can share with other accounts. Do you have a set goal for
achieving environmental sustainability? We do have goals
internally, but I’m not going to commit to any percentages.
In a lot of cases we’re improving the practices we’re
already doing and making them more environmentally friendly. It is
building-to-building — that’s the complexity of working
in a client-service industry. Sustainable food has become the buzz
in the convention industry. Can Aramark leverage its buying power
to purchase sustainable ingredients in bulk? Yes and no. We have
dedicated resources on the supply chain that are trying to provide
these products across the board. But, there are a limited number of
manufacturers that provide environmentally-friendly products and a
host of external factors beyond their control. One of the largest
manufacturers of cornstarch-based products is China. Not only do
you have shipping issues, but you have their labor practices to
deal with. How about an item like grass-fed beef, where there are a
number of ranchers in the domestic supply-chain? That term can be
thrown around loosely. Jim Tripp at the Anaheim Convention Center
actually travels to some of the ranches and inspects them to ensure
they meet our standards. Even if we are able to find grass-fed
beef, it doesn’t make sense to ship it 3,000 miles across the
country. Ultimately, the philosophy is purchase as many products
locally as we can and unfortunately, there aren’t enough
locally-grown, organic meats and vegetables to have them available
at every single account. At some point it goes into the
customers’ hands. How do you make behavioral changes with the
client? Nobody is against this. Everyone supports it to a varying
degree. Some clients are very savvy on these issues and come to the
table saying “I want grass-fed beef” or “I want
cage-free eggs.” But in some cases, we’re driving the
conversation and a customer might suggest a seafood item that is on
the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch List. We can have a dialog and be
very persuasive to make them understand why a comparable
alternative is not only going to be as good or better as the item
they wanted to use, but that it will also have an environmental
component. In some cases they may hear all we have to say and say,
“I don’t care, I still want sea bass.” In that
case, they are the client, and we have to provide what they want to
accomplish. — Dave Brooks Interviewed for this story: Jami
Leveen, (215) 238-4000