Hell Pizza has taken its first steps towards becoming the country's first carbon-zero fast-food chain.
The 75-outlet franchise began measuring the carbon footprint of its more than 1 million annual pizza deliveries and of head office operations in October, through Ekos, as part of its wider focus on sustainability.
The company has bought "tens of thousands of dollars" worth of carbon credits from Ekos to offset the emissions generated by its deliveries and head office operations by flights, company vehicles, power use and freight, but hopes to be emission-free by 2022, Ben Cumming, Hell chief executive, told the Herald.
It provided Ekos, which uses carbon credits to grow and protect indigenous forests in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, with data including delivery distances travelled.
The investment to offset these emissions would be ongoing, Cumming said.
It started with its delivery service as that was its biggest producer of carbon. The next steps would be to measure the rest of the business' footprint, he said.
"Our deliveries are an obvious producer of carbon. Ideally, they would be emission-free with no need to offset; but until we can practically do that, we're offsetting each delivery, and won't be passing the costs onto our customers," said Cumming.
Once its head office and delivery service are carbon neutral, the firm, which produces more than 75,000 free-range pizzas every week, plans to offset carbon emissions from its 75 stores.
The business has 40 e-bikes for deliveries around the country, mainly in Auckland and Wellington city centres.
Food waste was another area of focus for the company, he said.
"Sustainability has always been a topic of interest for Hell, and it's something we all feel very passionate about because as a business we feel we have a moral responsibility to ensure our future generations can prosper.
"We've always cared about reducing our environmental impact - the vast majority of our packaging is recycled and recyclable, we offer e-bike delivery in some areas and use local free-range ingredients. We've also grown our plant-based menu to respond to increasing demand and encourage meat-eaters to try alternative proteins."
He said Hell was committed to leading the way in the food sector and showing other brands what was possible when it came to operating a sustainable food business.
"The best thing and most exciting thing that we want to work towards is actually more of an emission-free future."
Cumming said Hell was less affected by the lockdown in March and the current one in Auckland than other operators in the sector as it already specialised in food delivery.
The stores were in a healthy position and sales had bounced back.
Dr Chris Galloway, marketing and reputation expert at Massey University, said companies had been paying to offset their emissions for several years.
But from a reputation point of view it was a move that consumers were increasingly looking for in the companies they spend with.
"It's encouraging to see this kind of company going in that direction. It's been led by organisations like Air New Zealand, for example, that has taken [offsetting emissions] very seriously, and supported by a variety of government initiatives," Galloway said.
"Good on them, they are moving with the moment and let's hope that more organisations will follow their lead."
What a company was doing to reduce its impact on the environment was increasingly become a factor influencing purchasing decisions, he said.