How Sodexo builds a culture of sustainability

Sodexo is all about improving quality of life—whether that’s by fighting hunger in schools, bringing out the best in employees, or choosing renewable energy. And as a multinational company that offers services from food catering to facilities management, Sodexo’s sustainability practices have a profound impact.

We caught up with Normand St-Gelais, the Director or Corporate Responsibility at Sodexo Canada, to find out how sustainability can make a difference in people’s daily lives.

“Sustainability is a culture,” Normand told us. “When our people are doing good work, they’re able to engage others and help promote that culture.”

Normand’s team recognises that sustainability programs work best when the employees on the ground aren’t just involved—they’re driving the change. Sodexo empowers employees at every level to make green choices, and they share stories from their sustainability champions across the organization.

Doing more to waste less

Cutting back on waste is a cornerstone of Sodexo’s sustainable practices. Each year Sodexo hosts WasteLESS Week, a campaign to celebrate waste reductions and inspire continued action. They encourage clients, consumers, and employees to get involved by finding creative ways to waste less food and other resources.

Managers use Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow Toolkit, which is full of ideas, digital materials, data, and analysis to help them find targeted ways to reduce waste and build more sustainable habits. They also find ways to strengthen their relationships with communities, clients, customers, and employees through sustainability and diversity and inclusion initiatives. “Our teams might clean the community around their unit, share a meatless lunch at the cafeteria, or switch to reusable cups,” Normand said. “Any green action they take will be magnified because they’re doing it together.”

Megan Lacoste, a General Manager working in healthcare services, shares Sodexo’s mission to cut food waste in half by 2025. Her team recognized that a patient’s appetite varies from day to day, so she helped implement a program that allows them to order exactly what they feel up to eating. This and other waste-reduction programs helped her reduce food waste from 20% to 15% in just six months! “There’s an intrapreneurial spirit at Sodexo that not only allows, but celebrates change and discovery at every level,” Megan said. “With this in mind, I take suggestions from frontline staff very seriously.”

Sodexo is also working to reduce wasted energy and the resulting carbon emissions—a topic that’s near and dear to us at Bullfrog. Sodexo’s offices are bullfrogpowered with renewable energy, and they make power conservation a priority on and offsite.

In the past years, Sodexo worked with Mackenzie Health in Richmond Hill to convert the entire hospital to 100% LED lighting—this change has already decreased energy consumption by more than 1.5 million kWh and saved $210,000 in annual electricity costs.

Breaking the cycle of hunger

Cutting back on waste isn’t just good for the environment—it also frees up resources for others to use. Sodexo created their Stop Hunger Foundation to ensure that rescued food from their sites would reach food banks and children in need.

“We believe in education for the future,” Normand said. “The more we’re able to help youth put food in their bellies and break the cycle of hunger, the better off we’ll all be.”

The Stop Hunger Foundation works with the Breakfast Club of Canada to help feed kids at school and communities in need. The Foundation will contribute $500,000 over the next five years, and Sodexo employees will have opportunities to volunteer their time and skills. The Stop Hunger Foundation is also matching donations to the Breakfast Club of Canada’s COVID-19 emergency fund.

When COVID-19 forced many of Sodexo’s sites to close, they were able to rescue and donate tons of fresh groceries to food banks and shelters in need. They’re also helping their suppliers connect with the right charities to prevent food waste throughout the supply chain.

The power to go green

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to sustainability issues, especially for a company with services as diverse as Sodexo’s. But instead of shying away from a challenge, Normand and the Corporate Social Responsibility team focus on giving employees the tools they need to find their own solutions and make them a reality.

“We change lives in small ways every day, and that’s an honour for me,” Normand said. “We work hard to empower our employees to practice sustainability and improve their workplaces. That’s how we can invest in the future together.”

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