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Andrew Burger headshot

Sodexo Reaches Across Supply Chain to Cut Carbon Emissions

One of the world's largest food services and facilities management businesses, French multinational Sodexo, bills itself as a corporation dedicated to improving quality of life. Headquartered in Paris's Issy-les-Moulineaux suburb, Sodexo employs some 425,000 people across 33,300 sites in 80 countries. The company serves over 75 million customers per day and generates annual revenues of some 18 billion euros in the process. That makes it one of the largest enterprises in its field, the largest employer of its kind in France and a member of the Fortune Global 500.

Aiming to live up to its mission-driven values, Sodexo prides itself on social and environmental responsibility, which encompasses improving the quality of life among its highly diverse workforce as well as the customers it serves. Building on past successes, Sodexo, working with World Wildlife Fund (WWF), has developed an industry-leading methodology which enables it to calculate the carbon emissions across its entire supply chain.

Sodexo measured and tracked carbon emissions across 14 countries and initiated pilot programs at 5,000 client sites. Now, the company is enacting a plan that will reduce food waste, accelerate implementation of energy-efficiency improvements, and integrate more renewable energy sources across its supply chain. Collectively, these initiatives are expected to reduce Sodexo's carbon emissions by 34 percent by 2020.

Building "green" cred

On the face of it, Sodexo's “green” credentials are impressive. It has been a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index – World for 1o years running. It's also been ranked as the best-performing company for “social, environmental and economic performance” in the benchmark RobecoSAM Sustainability Yearbook for the last seven years. In being awarded RobecoSAM's “Sector Leader and Gold Class” qualification in 2014, Sodexo earned perfect scores scores “for the positive local impact of its business operations around the world.”

Initiatives undertaken in 2010 and 2011 highlight the integrity of Sodexo's commitment to social and environmental responsibility. Sodexo entered into two new partnerships in 2010. The first, with United Coffee, supplies Sodexo with coffee machines and Fair Trade certified coffees. Via the second partnership, with Numi Tea, Sodexo is sourcing selected 100 percent organic teas.

Adding to these, Sodexo in 2011 entered into an eight-year contract with the U.S. government to provide food services to 51 United States Marines Corps mess halls.

Sodexo's plan to cut carbon emissions

Key aspects of Sodexo's new carbon emissions reduction and social-environmental sustainability plan include:

  • Working with and helping our more than 10,000 suppliers around the world to reach the marketplace with more environmentally responsible products. (Almost half of all emissions related to Sodexo’s business are in our supply chain (our suppliers, their suppliers and often our supplier’s suppliers);

  • Four scalable best practices that reduce carbon emissions as part of the benefits that the company is deploying on its more than 33,000 client sites; and

  • An 'energy management program' that includes energy efficiency as well as a focus on deployment of renewable and ‘clean’ energy systems.

Elaborating on the quality-of-life improvements expected by putting its new emissions-reduction plan into effect, Neil Barrett, Sodexo Group VP for sustainable development, stated:
“The individual approach provides incremental improvements; in order to have a real impact we need to engage our entire value chain to generate systemic reductions.

“We combined the best local initiatives that are being implemented by Sodexo operations around the world and used them, in combination with a science-based understanding of our carbon emissions to determine a ‘baseline.’ We then developed a plan of action with all of our supply chain partners - and with more and more of our clients for all of the countries where we operate.”

Suzanne Apple, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Senior VP of private-sector engagement, highlighted the benefits expected as Sodexo reaches beyond its own operations to reduce carbon emissions:
“Sodexo’s commitment to reduce emissions beyond its own operations – from customer locations to its supply chain – will help protect our planet from climate change and conserve nature’s dwindling resources.

"By pursuing these emissions cuts, Sodexo is demonstrating leadership that can impact the entire consumer services sector, and we hope other companies replicate and build on their efforts. Our work with Sodexo is a great example of how WWF is working together with companies to curb climate change by seizing market opportunities.”

Diversity in the workplace

Fairness in hiring, promotion and workforce diversity are hot topics these days as well, particularly as a high-profile gender-prejudice lawsuit involving pioneering Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers (KPCB) and former junior partner Ellen Pao makes its way through the U.S. courts. Sodexo, for its part, has garnered recognition for the number and quality of its workforce diversity initiatives.

Sodexo earned a No. 1 ranking on the Diversity Inc Top 50 list in 2010. According to Diversity Inc.'s report, Sodexo “has led every other company in its ability to implement, measure and assess strong internal diversity initiatives.”

*Image credits: 1) Trayport; 2) Sodexo

Andrew Burger headshotAndrew Burger

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

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