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The right mix

Sean Haley, CEO of Sodexo UK & Ireland says the key ingredients for the food and services provider’s bounce back from the pandemic is resilience and retention

Amid all the dire predictions on the ‘death’ of the office which dominated the headlines last year, JLL’s Global Future of Work Survey affirmed that nearly three quarters of decision makers still believe the office is critical to doing business. This goes to show, says Sue Asprey Price, JLL’s CEO for EMEA Work Dynamics that while the purpose of the office has been redefined it still forms the hub of organisational culture and plays a central role in the employee value proposition.

For its part, Sodexo UK & Ireland, which employs over 30,000 people in the UK and Ireland has won a number of significant contracts within the private and public sector over the past few months.

Says CEO Sean Haley: “The stresses of the last few years has shown the resilience of the company, as we’ve learnt a lot about our business mix, both public and private, food and non-food. Over and above that, our positive results revolve around retention. Having a retention rate above 95 per cent and retaining our current business is our absolute focus.

“Working with our current customers and looking to their future needs is crucial, and there are some big ones; for instance the Project Allenby/Connaught contract, where we feed almost a third of the army.”

Other significant contract renewals include six government and police services contracts worth a combined value of around £34 million and while contracts with Ascot Racecourse, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and Sullom Voe energy terminal in Shetland have all been extended.

In new wins, Sodexo has also taken over the management of two more prisons on behalf of the Ministry of Justice and been selected for the provision of food services and facilities management to a London-based global banking firm; the Dublin HQ of a global tech giant; TriRx Pharmaceutical Services and Preston North End Football Club.

According to Haley a key element of these successes are client’s recognition that the company can deliver quantified and tangible social value.

He explains: “I’m on record as saying social value is no longer a choice. Organisations have to be prepared to make a positive impact and it has to be embedded in everything they do. When public and private companies procure contracts there is much more weighting around the social value proposition.”


Sodexo first published its commitment to social values in 2015 and in 2021, this evolved into its Social Value Pledge, which covers four areas: People, Planet, Places and Partners. The overriding ambition according to Haley is to improve the quality of life for Sodexo’s people, its consumers and within the communities where they live and work.

He explains: “In ‘People’ we’ve clear actions in how we drive social mobility. At any one time we’ve approximately 900 colleagues on apprenticeship schemes covering a whole range, from front line colleagues to management roles, which absolutely drives social mobility. That’s underpinned by constant investments in our employee value proposition, with the introduction of a new range of benefits launched last year that make sure our colleagues have what they need to be able to progress and improve the quality of their life.”

In terms of ‘Planet’ – Sodexo UK & Ireland recently announced it is ahead of schedule in its journey to Net Zero 2040. The report reveals that the company has achieved a 37 per cent reduction in absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across scopes 1, 2 and 3, compared to its baseline year of 2017. This reduction represents the removal of approximately 400,000 tonnes of carbon (tCO2e) from its footprint at 31 May 2023.

Says Haley: “We often quote that not all net zero plans are created equal, so it’s good to reflect on the progress being made but there is still a lot to do. It’s a great opportunity for the industry because 35 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK is from the food and drink industry. This means we are a critical part of the UK‘s’ Plc’s net zero strategy. They can’t achieve it without us.”

When it comes to ‘Places’, he explains 99 per cent of Sodexo people live in the communities where the brand operates so the focus is to recruit, volunteer and support foundations and charities within those communities.

Says Haley: “We are also working with SMEs from those communities, ensuring that wherever we live and work we help to improve as well.

“This also brings into play ‘Partners’. We recently launched a net zero supply chain engagement strategy but with 70 per cent of our supply chain made up from SMEs or VCSEs we acknowledge that most can’t afford consultants and the significant investment needed so we are supporting them which will also help them achieve their own net zero goals. The intention is that by 2030 we will only want to work with suppliers who can evidence they have made significant progress and have a clear plan towards net zero.”

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