By Neil Barrett, VP, Sustainable Development, Sodexo
During our recent #SodexoCR Twitter chat, we were asked a number of questions that due to time (and the 140 character limit) we were unable to answer or answer fully. The hour-long chat, which touched upon a whole range of topics from integrated reporting to sustainable food systems, supply chain responsibility, and diversity and inclusion, was a first for my team. While we managed to cover quite a bit of ground, here’s some context in response to the questions we were unable to get to.
Integrated reporting is a ‘hot’ topic in the sustainability space these days with companies looking for the most effective way(s) to tell their stories and engage stakeholders. For Sodexo, integrating our corporate responsibility throughout the Annual Report was a natural fit; since our efforts as a responsible employer, to support local communities, to promote nutrition, health and wellness and protect the environment can be found in our operations, our supply chain, our offices and, as is often said, in our DNA.
For several years now, the required ‘Registration Document’ already included a chapter on our economic, social and environmental responsibility. It is important to share that over the last few years, this chapter has not only gotten more comprehensive with more details and information, but also become more prominent, moving forward in the report.
Several attendees asked us about the pros and cons of integrating our annual reporting with CR and sustainability metrics. As with any change, shifting to integrated reporting was not easy and required us to understand the needs and meet the various statutory requirements in countries where Sodexo operates, and to build consensus internally.
But our teams were quick to appreciate the benefits of integrating CR into our regular reporting in streamlining processes, reducing costs (of a separate report) and, above all, demonstrating that CR is integral to who we are, what we do and how we engage with our clients, suppliers, consumers, etc.
Quality of Life
@AlisonAzaria asked how quality of life services factor into our approach to corporate responsibility. Ultimately, for us, responsibility comes down to mission and values. And the mission that has guided us for almost 50 years has been twofold:
- Improve the Quality of Daily Life of our employees and all whom we serve, and
- Contribute to the economic, social and environmental development of the communities, regions and countries in which we operate.
Those are strong and powerful words and they inextricably tie our corporate responsibility and mission together. This is what we aspire to every day and everywhere. With thousands of additional people in our supply chain, 428,000 employees and 75 million consumers in 80 countries around the world, we have a huge opportunity—and a responsibility—to improve quality of life.
Using our Expertise to Influence and Encourage
Sustainable food systems is a complex topic and garnered several questions during the Twitter chat. While @iPura asked us what initiatives we had in place for improving/securing food safety across our supply chain, @MSCecolabel reminded us that overfishing is the second biggest global environmental challenge after climate change and @brennadavis7 asked how exactly we were supporting sustainable food systems.
When a brand has the kind of reach we do across our supply chain, every decision we take, from sourcing to product selection, transportation and disposal, can have significant impact. Using our influence – such as the power of our purchasing – to select and work with suppliers that share our values and commitments is important—and can go a long way in shifting our suppliers’ policies and processes. Our efforts in responsible sourcing include a number of areas that are designed to help ensure a sustainable food system. We shared the example of sustainable seafood, reflecting the increasing importance and demand for people who look to the world’s oceans not only for nutrition but also a livelihood.
Increasingly, people are becoming aware that food waste – the fact that one third of the food produced for human consumption is never eaten – can and must be reduced if we are to provide for everyone on the planet within the Earth’s capacity.
Driving Behavioral Change
One of the questions we were asked, and often get, is how we drive people to change their behavior, whether it be about making healthier choices for themselves or the planet.@andrealearned called it human value, the way in which we reach consumers through our clients, knowing that the only way to get people to change their behavior is to not simply make those choices available to them; we have to bring our expertise – whether it be our chefs or our facilities management professionals introducing a new, more efficient technology – to our clients and consumers and encourage them to give it a try.
Unilever, one of our suppliers, who is also a client, refers to the concept of ‘seductive nutrition,’ which is a great way of expressing that it isn’t about surprising people that something delicious is healthy but rather making something that is healthy so enticing that people want to try it – and come back to it again and again.
Responsibility: Three Things Every Company Should Do
@steph_kennard asked us what three priorities we think every company ought to consider regarding sustainability. Rather than specific issues, which vary from industry to industry, I’d like to suggest that any company, regardless of size, is responsible for its own behavior. And so prioritizing our behavior comes down to three basic tenets:
- Your actions define you – to your employees, your customers, your suppliers and the world. But managing one’s own footprint is not enough to really be a responsible company.
- We believe that companies are increasingly aware – and held to account – for if and how they use their influence. If we ask clients (or consumers) to choose us based on our values, we have to do the same thing when we make our decisions on with whom to partner.
- And as I alluded to earlier, companies can and should use their expertise to engage clients and consumers to help them do things that make their lives, and the lives of their loved ones, those in their community and around the world better.
We know that we touch the lives of millions and, therefore, improving the quality of life for millions of people is an incredible opportunity – and responsibility. The only thing more daunting than the challenge is our determination to succeed.
This piece was originally published on the CSRwire talkback blog.