When I joined Sodexo earlier this year as the Director of Brand Management, Sustainability for Sodexo’s Corporate Services division, I felt great optimism about the prospect of being part of a company that was committed to making every day a better day and fostering a better tomorrow. I felt that same optimism at the recent Net Impact Conference in Portland, where I moderated a panel that explored sustainability in the Pacific Northwest beverage industry.
The event, attended primarily by graduate students and professionals such as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practitioners and nonprofit leaders, was dedicated to changing the world through business practices. It included a powerful mix of thought leaders, innovators and specialists committed to using their business skills to create social and environmental good. As we move from philosophy and aspirations to measuring, tracking and making a net impact, it’s clear the future of CSR is bright.
Our panel, which explored coffee, tea, wine and beer, addressed everything from technology, communications and supply chain, to customers and community. Panelist Steve Smith, owner of Steven Smith Teamaker, noted that technology allows him to keep his inventory levels low, which lets him manage his energy use more efficiently. Christian Ettinger, owner of Hopworks Urban Brewery, shared the recent success he has had in working with companies like Sysco (which Sodexo relies on as well) to procure local sustainable products.
Do their customers care about these sustainability practices? They sure do. Michele Martin, program manager of the Carbon Reduction Challenge, noted that vineyards are able to charge more for grapes that are grown sustainably, and this juice is being sold in greater volumes. David Griswold, owner of Sustainable Harvest, a coffee importing company, said his customers (Ben and Jerry’s, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and Peet’s, among others) are concerned about both the product and the process by which they access information. Transparency and traceability are both key.
At Sodexo, the Better Tomorrow Plan is our global roadmap to doing ‘good’, not only for the communities we serve, but also for the planet. Net Impact is just that type of event too. It gets into the nuts and bolts of creating a better tomorrow. Not just by talking about it, but by leading change… for good.
Kristen Rainey is the director of brand management, sustainability for Sodexo’s Corporate client segment.