30 October, 2019

A Collaborative Approach to Food Service

by Gabriela Warrior Renaud, Fairtrade Canada

Meaghan Beck is the Manager of Corporate Responsibility with Sodexo Canada. Sodexo is a proud Gold-level sponsor for the 2019 Fair Trade Campus Week. Learn more about Sodexo’s work here.

Can you tell me a bit more about your role within Sodexo and the kind of work that you do? 

I am Sodexo Canada's Manager of Corporate Responsibility. I work with our teams across the country, in four different business segments; healthcare, universities, energy and resources, and corporate services. With our teams, I focus on how we can improve our business to be more sustainable, to be better corporate citizens, and to better take care of our people.

Fairtrade is one of the many initiatives we focus on. I work closely with our Supply Management team in Canada, and North America, to bring in new products and work with new companies. We have a focus on buying from small and medium sized enterprises and we have efforts in place to work with diverse suppliers.  This includes Indigenous suppliers, minority groups, and woman owned businesses in Canada.

What is Sodexo’s history in working with Canadian campuses?

Typically, we offer food services, housekeeping services, or, building maintenance services. At a university where we do offer food services, we engage with the student body quite a bit on their preferences. Whether that be their sustainability group, or their Green Team or something like that, we collaborate with the students. It becomes very exciting for us, because students are already engaged, so it becomes a great forefront for innovation, what's new, current and also cause-related. Whether that be sustainable seafood, or Fairtrade products, students want these things. If there's a choice between a Fairtrade chocolate bar and a regular chocolate bar, even though students are on a tighter budget than some of us, often times they'll still choose that Fairtrade chocolate bar because of their belief systems. Other students, may be more inclined towards other initiatives, for example, the sustainable seafood option instead. We do monitor food waste closely to balance what students want versus what they are buying.  We look for the root cause and look for solutions in product sizing, pricing, and research alternatives.  

It's great to hear that this has become a two-way dialogue between the students and Sodexo to build a food service plan that really works to reflect the students’ values.

I really enjoy working with students.  They push the world to do better, show us what's new and current, and what they care about and why.  Their leadership in this space is shifting the needle on many causes in today’s economy including Fair Trade.  It's excellent.

Have you seen an increase in demand for Fairtrade items specifically over the years?

Definitely. It does tend to ebb and flow, in terms of which issue is happening right now. Local food is also a hot topic. How does local food relate to fair trade? How does organic food relate to fair trade?  What about biodiversity?  I think, sometimes, there's confusion for the general consumer. I do see an increase, and I do see synergies between all of the different topics. I think the future will ultimately be conscious diets.

As a leader in sustainability, why is Fair Trade Campus Week an important campaign for Sodexo to participate in?

We're really excited to be part of Fair Trade Campus week this year. Really, it's to bring awareness. There's so much going on in today's world, whether that be politics, or changes in our environment and our climate, it's good to bring focus to Fair Trade. It is hugely important, not only equity for the products that we're purchasing, but quality. This aligns with what we're focused on for corporate responsibility when it comes to what we do in our communities, and how we support our people, and drive not only diversity and inclusion, but efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, and just be better corporate citizens.

To be able to have a week like this, where we can engage the student body, and bring the focus to the Fairtrade products that we do have, I think that's really exciting.  We are very proud that our Sodexo Aspretto coffee brand is Fairtrade certified.  Fair Trade Campus Week gives us an opportunity to share good news and bring attention to Fairtrade products we offer.

You mentioned Fair Trade Campus Week is just one of the many initiatives Sodexo Canada does for corporate responsibility, can you tell me about your other efforts?

Our main focus areas for corporate responsibility are food waste reduction, buying from small and medium sized enterprises and supporting the communities we work in, as well as gender equality.

You might have seen, with United Nations Summit last week in New York, there are various announcements coming out. Sodexo has committed, at a global and a local level, to cut food waste in our business in half by 2025. That is our biggest way to affect the amount of water we consume, the amount of energy we consume, as well as, obviously, our waste and carbon impact. That's our main project to support the environment. We'll be working with a company, called Leanpath, where we're implementing measuring tools in each of our kitchens, at 3000 sites globally, to help eliminate avoidable food waste in our kitchens.

In addition, we also have a Stop Hunger Foundation. In Canada, and in 20 other areas around the world, we raise money across the country and we give that money back to local charities to support our local communities in ending hunger. We're working towards funding programs that build sustainable food systems in Canada – programs that empower, educate, and help break the cycle of food aid programs.

The last area we focus on is gender. We know that when the climate shifts, or when there's economic changes, women are often the most vulnerable. In addition, we have efforts in place to hire women, have gender diverse teams at each level of management and buy from women owned businesses.

We know that campuses have a lot of buying power in terms of Fairtrade goods, and thus an increased impact for farming communities in the Global South. How does Sodexo support that demand across Canadian campuses?

One of the main impacts that Sodexo can have is through our supply chain. So, similarly to a campus, who has a lot of buying power, so does Sodexo. That's why we have commitments around buying from small and medium sized enterprises. Our goal, globally, is $10 billion by 2025, from small and medium sized enterprises. We're currently on target for that, at $3.5 billion. That's exciting to see.

In addition, one of the other announcements that came out of United Nations Summit, was a commitment to further work in our supply chain. We know that we not only have the buying power, but we can also make changes to packaging, or sourcing, or reduction in waste through size, or the amount of SKUs we have in our inventory, etc. There's a lot of work happening there, too.

What do you see as the future for Sodexo’s collaboration with campuses and this next Fair Trade Campus Week?

I think in all aspects, the future is collaborative. If we are to all achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, and prevent our temperatures from rising further than 1.5 degree, I think that we all need to collaborate. That's private business, that's government, students, NGOs. We're fully on board for that, and look forward to further collaborating, and working with students, and driving change together.

Fair Trade Campus week will be a great opportunity to bring awareness to what Fair Trade means, why it's important, and, which products we have available to educate our students and customers.