Sodexo Australia: committed to waste management, sustainable procurement and Indigenous employment

Sodexo Australia: committed to waste management, sustainable procurement and Indigenous employment

Sodexo has been operating in Australia, delivering quality of life services for over three decades, employing 5,000 people across 300 different sites nationally. Sodexo offer around 100 different integrated services covering asset management, building maintenance, facilities management, catering and hospitality, accommodation management, transport security, concierge services, wellness programmes and more. The one thing they all have in common is that they are delivered to improve the quality of life of clients and consumers across a range of industry segments from the corporate sector, healthcare and seniors, education, government and justice, to energy and mining clients.

Mark Chalmers is CFO and Country President for Sodexo in Australia. “I'm responsible for driving corporate governance and strategic responsibility for our operations across Australia,” he confirms. “In the process, I work with the country leadership team to ensure we're correctly engaged and aligned to drive growth retention and development, while constantly improving profitability and attracting, developing, and retaining the right talent to sustain that growth.”

Sodexo’s corporate and social responsibility journey is being shaped by its Better Tomorrow 2025 roadmap. “It’s a global roadmap for Sodexo which drives our corporate social responsibility initiatives,” explains Chalmers. “Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow 2025 aligns with the UN's sustainable development goals and focuses on three levels of impact: the individual, the community where we all thrive, and the environment within which we operate.” Intrinsically linked to this initiative is Sodexo Australia’s three-pronged focus on hunger, gender and waste.

Introducing some of the initiatives Sodexo is implementing in Australia to elevate its culture and improve the quality of life for its workers, Chalmers says: “We label one of our most important initiatives ‘I Hear You’. It was launched five years ago to increase awareness and understanding around the mental health of our people and trying to elevate approaches to mental health to match our approach to physical health and safety. We're trying to provide a healthy workplace environment where people will develop and have a positive sense of themselves while feeling supported with any mental health issues.” He notes the feedback received is among the most positive for any of the programmes Sodexo runs. “People who are raising issues are supporting each other. It’s good to know we’re not falling on deaf ears and people are becoming involved.”

Sodexo’s commitment to Australia’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) is having a positive impact on Indigenous engagement, enhancing supplier diversity and supporting new ways of working together, believes Chalmers. “We began down this road back in 2009,” he reveals. “Since then, we’ve achieved our second Elevate RAP - the highest status for organisations that have been acting and delivering in this area. Among the benefits, in the past 10 years, we've employed nearly 1,100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Within that, our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees have earned more than $34mn in wages that directly impacts the community. At the same time, it’s not just about employing Indigenous people, it's about empowerment - supporting and helping grow Indigenous businesses. In our last financial year, we've spent more than $24mn with Indigenous owned businesses. We operate on the basis that we're not just treating this as a transactional relationship, we are mentoring and guiding the establishment of businesses or refining businesses process to be more commercially competitive.”

Chalmers explains many of these Indigenous businesses have gone on to become major suppliers of their products in the open market. “One example is Yaru Water,” he says. “It is a provider of bottled water from fresh springs on Indigenous-owned land, that supplies to us across our network. Now its product sits on the supermarket shelf next to Coca-Cola and Pepsi.”

This year, Sodexo announced a national partnership with the Clontarf Foundation, which helps improve education, self-esteem, and employment prospects for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. “We rely on the support and national partnership of organisations like Sodexo to grow and expand our national footprint; already the programme helps more than 8,000 boys in 128 schools across Western Australia, the Northern Territory, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland,” says Clontarf Foundation CEO Gerard Neesham. “We look forward to this programme, with Sodexo’s support, continuing to grow and help more and more boys contribute meaningfully to society.”

Helping Sodexo amplify its sustainability efforts, Australia’s leading food reclaim company YUME is an agency set up to identify quality food that would otherwise be headed to landfill. This might be products that were incorrectly labelled or that didn’t meet a required delivery time to a supermarket chain and were rejected. “We work with YUME and identify these quantities of products and, where possible, look to acquire from YUME rather than our other sources and use that product in our supply chain.” Last year, Sodexo purchased 87 tonnes of food from YUME, which equates to around two and a half million litres of water that's saved around 74 tons of CO2 emissions.

"At Yume we are building a more transparent and connected food industry - one that stops 4.1 million tonnes of food going to waste every year,” says Yume Founder & CEO, Katy Barfield. “Yume partners with businesses to do things differently and say no to food waste through direct action. We are incredibly grateful to Sodexo for being an early adopter of our new technology across their network and for expanding on their sustainable procurement efforts.”

Allied to its support for Yume, Sodexo is working with Foodbank Australia on events like their annual Servathon. “We are incredibly grateful for the ongoing support Sodexo, and in particular their employees, provide to Foodbank Australia. The funds raised from the Servathon will enable us to offer over 150,000 meals for distribution to our charity network,” confirms the organisation’s CEO Brianna Casey. “This will help ensure children can start the day with a healthy breakfast, pensioners can enjoy a cup of tea with a friend and families can share a nutritious meal.”

Technology underpins such initiatives at Sodexo maintains Chalmers. “We're introducing a data-driven WasteWatch programme enabling our sites to capture food waste data and identify opportunities that reduce waste and drive the change there as to how we use it. We're looking to implement that over the next 12 months both in Australia and across the world with Artificial Intelligence (AI) preventing around 50% of our food waste.”

Sodexo Australia is also leveraging technology to enhance its operations through Augmented Reality (AR) and IoT. “Installing sensors that are able to capture data centrally allows us to develop predictive analytics to help us understand when assets are going to fail; from there, we can work on scheduled maintenance in a more structured way,” he explains. “AR glasses then allow our staff on site to connect with an external specialist expert who needn’t visit a remote site to offer maintenance instructions. This not only reduces costs and safety hazards, but aids collaboration, saving time and a whole lot of wastage.” 

Sodexo’s efforts with technology were applauded in October when the company received the Tech for Good award at the 6th annual eCAC40 Ceremony organised by Les Echos. The award recognises how Sodexo’s digital transformation is driving sustainable and responsible growth, especially when it comes to food waste. Earlier in 2019, the company was also named Indigenous Employer of the Year and is continuing to step up its efforts around inclusion & diversity through its collaboration with e.motion 21 supporting young people with disabilities into the workforce.

The goals for 2020 and beyond are clear, pledges Chalmers: “We’ll continue to improve our client offerings and grow our business in Australia by providing a broader range of quality of life services while supporting corporate responsibilities and keeping our people safe.”

Mark Chalmers