CSR program helps boost engagement

‘Better Tomorrow Plan’ at Sodexo Canada involves, inspires employees
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 12/20/2011

When Sodexo Canada launched a corporate sustainability program in 2010, it knew it had to get employees on board to make the program a success. The 12,000-employee food services and facilities management company was keen to embrace sustainability as a core commitment and fundamental part of its business strategy. But since it’s such a decentralized company — with 420,000 employees spread across 80 countries and up to 300 locations in Canada alone — employee involvement was important.

“(Sustainability is) a key part of our company but we wouldn’t have seen any of the progress so far around the Better Tomorrow Plan without employee participation in it,” says Chris Roberts, director of corporate citizenship at Sodexo Canada in Burlington, Ont. “It comes back to being decentralized — without that employee support and employees driving this, we wouldn’t have made the progress we have today.”

Just one year after it implemented the program, Sodexo Canada has been recognized as one of Canada’s Greenest Employers by Mediacorp Canada and received a green award from Foodservice and Hospitality magazine.

The Better Tomorrow Plan is a global initiative that was developed at the company’s headquarters in Paris and spread from there. The 10-year vision focuses on global and local issues that touch every part of the organization. There are three main pillars:

• actively promote nutrition, health and wellness

• support the development of local communities

• protect the environment.

And there are 14 core commitments (see sidebar on page 14) to reach sustainability objectives and motivate and empower both employees and customers to make a difference for future generations.

“We realized very early on to develop a unique plan like this that was different from what’s out there currently in the field, we knew we didn’t have the full expertise to do it ourselves, we needed to have the engagement of all stakeholders, customers, clients, suppliers, employees, government levels, organizations, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) — we needed everybody’s input,” says Roberts.

In Canada, the initiative rolled out in a number of ways. For one, an online toolkit was created to communicate and engage employees. It featured posters, presentations for employees and clients and elearning links “to raise awareness and the fact we had this extensive plan and vision,” he says.

The toolkit was presented at a national leadership conference in November 2010 attended by 450 managers from across the country. Whenever there’s an opportunity, managers are informed of the plan and any developments, says Roberts, and about three-quarters of the managers have taken online training around the plan.

An employee-run committee called the Green Team also works to educate and engage employees and inspire them to adopt practices that reduce waste and preserve the environment. This includes bi-monthly initiatives around energy awareness, charitable events and Earth Day activities.

“Being a one-man department for Canada is tough so we need to rely on the support of cross-functional teams within the company to help with these initiatives,” says Roberts, adding the team members come from different divisions, such as supply management or marketing and sales. “They help support my goals and objectives of implementing, communicating the plan across Canada.”

And there’s definitely interest from employees. In engagement surveys, corporate social responsibility has one of the highest scores, so it’s “hitting home,” says Susan Black, senior vice-president of HR at Sodexo Canada.

“Certainly, in tough economic times, our people can feel really great about the stories we tell and share about what they’re doing to assist us with our Better Tomorrow Plan, the principles and drivers. People feel good about being part of this organization because we do some great work in the communities and to support the environment.”

Employee engagement was a big driver behind the Better Tomorrow Plan and it was actually underestimated, she says, as the company was originally looking at the initiative as more of a business plan for clients and suppliers.

“As we explored it more, we realized engagement is so key to this and it’s a great outcome of doing this work.”

Last year, Sodexo did an annual site survey and saw an 18 per cent response rate from its units around sustainability. In 2011, that response jumped to 67 per cent, says Roberts.

“It really showed us what we were doing as a company and how we were engaging employees was really working.”

Spread across all parts of Canada, Sodexo has its challenges when it comes to recruitment, particularly for remote sites in industries such as engineering, hydro, health care and oil and gas. But when hiring, candidates are more interested in sustainability at Sodexo than career paths and people programs, says Black.

“It’s really interesting how that’s such a big grab for us in the marketplace for people.”

As part of the plan, the company worked with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to implement a national sustainable seafood policy, which commits Sodexo to eliminating at-risk species from its menus by the end of 2011 and sourcing 100 per cent of its seafood from sustainable sources by 2015.

It’s one of plan’s greatest accomplishments, says Roberts.

“That’s important to employees especially because they realize it’s an impact that’s far outside of our business, it’s so far-reaching. With the volume of seafood we purchase globally as a company, you realize it actually has an impact on fisheries and oceans themselves because of our volumes.”

Canada has seen the devastation of fisheries firsthand, he says, “so for employees to be able to feel they can actually help to rectify that industry and the oceans is incredible.”

Sodexo has also introduced a fully sustainable coffee concept, called Aspretto, which includes fair trade coffees, teas and sugars along with cups, stir sticks, equipment and marketing materials. And 10 cents from each pound of coffee sold is given to local charities. There are also initiatives around reusable materials and energy conservation.

The Better Tomorrow Plan has also included the introduction of a sustainability management and reporting tool (SMART) that allows the company and employees to perform detailed sustainability assessments for clients and provide them with recommendations on energy reduction.

A country road map was also created to define the company’s actions and milestones and a quarterly corporate citizen newsletter went out to employees and clients. Through the first year, the website and intranet were updated with new sustainability and corporate citizenship sections.

Externally, green supplier awards were created around the Better Tomorrow Plan and communications were ramped up, with press releases helping to raise awareness. Internally, quarterly newsletters go out to employees along with weekly ebulletins and news briefs that incorporate a sustainability piece. There’s also an annual progress report on corporate citizenship initiatives.

The Better Tomorrow Plan has three phases, with the first being initiation, the second being appropriation and the third being monitoring, which is where Sodexo expects to shift in 2012.

It’s a unique plan and it has not been perfect, but the company continues to make adjustments, says Roberts.

“We’re going to continue to refine the metrics set for the 14 commitments, continue to develop tools in resourcing networks for employees and continue to work sustainability and corporate citizenship into our recruiting process,” he says. “The more passionate people we can hire around sustainability, the easier it is for us to engage employees.”

Better tomorrow plan

Sodexo’s 14 commitments

Nutrition health and wellness

• Develop and promote health and wellness solutions for clients, consumers and employees in all the countries where we operate by 2015.

• Provide and promote varied and balanced food options at all client sites by 2012.

• Provide and promote choices with a reduced intake of sugar, salt and fats at all client sites by 2015.

Local communities

• Fight hunger and malnutrition through a STOP Hunger program in all the countries where Sodexo operates by 2020.

• Support local community development in all the countries where we operate by 2015.

• Increase the purchase of products sourced from fairly traded certified sources by 2015.

Sustainable supplies

• Ensure compliance with a global sustainable supply chain code of conduct in all the countries where Sodexo operates by 2015.

• Source local, seasonal or sustainably grown or raised products in all the countries where we operate by 2015.

• Source sustainable fish and seafood in all the countries where we operate by 2015.

• Source and promote sustainable equipment and supplies in all the countries where Sodexo operates by 2020.

Energy and emissions

• Reduce the carbon footprint in all the countries where Sodexo operates and at client sites by 2020.

Water and effluents

• Reduce the water footprint in all the countries where we operate and at client sites by 2020.

Materials and waste

• Reduce organic waste in all the countries where Sodexo operates and at client sites by 2015. And support initiatives to recover organic waste.

• Reduce non-organic waste in all the countries where we operate and at client sites by 2015. We will support initiatives to recover non-organic waste.

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