Real Leaders

Elephants Delicatessen: Serving Up Sustainability

This specialty food store is pioneering a better way forward.

By Real Leaders

Among the first specialty food stores in the U.S., Elephants Delicatessen was founded in 1979 in Portland, Oregon. Within 45 years, the company expanded into eight retail locations, a catering and events company, and a wholesale division. 

Elephants Delicatessen, a 2024 Real Leaders Top Impact Company, also prides itself on pioneering sustainable practices.

In 2011, it became Oregon’s first business to invest in an electric vehicle; and in 2015, the company earned B Corp certification. In 2020, it enrolled in Energy Trust of Oregon’s Strategic Energy Management program and since then has received over $18,000 in incentives for reducing its energy use and thousands of dollars more to pay for equipment and lighting upgrades. The company cut its electricity and natural gas use by 25% and committed to reach net-zero emissions by 2030. 

“Restaurants have the unique ability to help the communities we are part of,” co-owner and CEO Anne Weaver says. “We have the opportunity to showcase our values through our business. Restaurants can lead in a significant way.”

Elephants Delicatessen opts to share an annual sustainability report on its website, which looks at the company’s use of water, electricity, natural gas, and fleet vehicles, as well as refrigerant loss, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste management. Its latest summary reads, in part, “Elephants saw significant increases in production, staffing, and revenue. … And yet, with a few exceptions, increases in resources and emissions lagged the increases in productivity and revenue.” 

Weaver says, “We never settle for ‘good enough’ – in our food, our business, or our sustainability practices. We’ve learned the wins are worth it — to sustain both our business and our environment.” 

Pictured Above is one of their Catering Entree’s, Chicken Peperonata and Northwest Salmon

Net Zero by 2030

In its latest sustainability report, Elephants Delicatessen identified the following initiatives to mitigate its environmental impact and help reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2030.

  • Continue participating in Energy Trust of Oregon’s Strategic Energy Management program and reconsider existing goals.
  • Establish a comprehensive water management plan with revised focus, goals, and practices.
  • Establish a comprehensive refrigerant management plan to initiate a transition to less emissions-intensive operations.
  • Establish a fleet management plan to guide reduction and mitigation efforts through 2028.
  • Conduct waste audits for all locations to better understand the scope and challenges of its waste disposal practices.
  • Expand its food donation and diversion efforts to better mitigate the negative social and environmental impacts of food waste.
  • Translate existing and future policies and plans into Spanish to expand accessibility for employees and stakeholders.
  • Implement more consistent tracking of its actions and practices to better understand and measure their impacts.
  • Perform a material environmental impact assessment for the entirety of its operations.

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