Diversity Turnaround at Sodexo

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    Sodexo is one of the largest food services and facilities management companies in the world, and the leading provider of integrated food and facilities management services in North America. Founded in 1966, Sodexo is a $20 billion-a-year firm and the world’s 22nd largest employer. Sodexo has 413,000 employees who serve 50 million consumers a day at 33,400 sites in 80 countries. Currently, African Americans account for 28 percent of Sodexo’s 120,000 U.S. employees.

    Now, and into the future, Sodexo will be one of America’s major employers. Sodexo’s impact in the labor force started in 1998, with the merger of Marriott Management Services to become Sodexo Marriott Services and one of the largest food service providers in America. Sodexo operating divisions serve   private corporations, government agencies, schools, universities and colleges, hospitals and clinics, assisted-living facilities, and military bases.

    But Sodexo didn’t start out with such an impressive record.

    In 2006, it settled an $80 million class action discrimination lawsuit brought by African-American employees. During this period, Sodexo hired Rohini Anand as the company’s   diversity officer. Anand’s will to right the company’s errant ways has enabled Sodexo to become a bellwether in diversity activities and programs. As the company’s Global Diversity Chief, Anand says, “Today diversity and inclusion and sustainability are drivers of Sodexo’s business growth and progress.” Under Anand, Sodexo has received widespread recognition for leadership, and fostering equal opportunity.

    Anand says that “diversity and inclusion strengthens our company, maximizes the investment of our stockholders, and prepares us to lead in the 21st century.” Under Anand, Sodexo was ranked No. 1 in 2010 and No. 2 in 2011 and 2012 on the Diversity Inc. business index of Top Companies for Diversity and Inclusion. The National Restaurant Association awarded Sodexo its Faces of Diversity Inspiration Award and Working Mother Media named Sodexo a Best Company for Hourly Workers three consecutive times. Sodexo’s remarkable culture change has been featured as a Harvard Business School case study. The Sodexo Foundation is committed to ending childhood hunger and supports programs that fight poverty and unemployment.

    Anand says “Sodexo considers diversity and inclusion a business imperative as well as a social and ethical responsibility grounded in core values of team spirit, service spirit, and spirit of progress.” Sodexo offerings range from self-service food that include staff restaurants, catering, executive dining, vending, and meal delivery, to integrated facilities management services that include services such as reception, concierge, cleaning, pantry, laundry, landscaping and waste management.

    Sodexo made headlines across the country when they established a joint venture with Magic Johnson Enterprises. SodexoMAGIC is 51 percent owned by Magic Johnson Enterprises and 49 percent owned by Sodexo Inc. SodexoMAGIC provides food service at institutions such as Howard University and management and services such as vending, housekeeping, landscaping, plant operations and maintenance, asset management, and laundry services.

    Anand says that “12 percent of Sodexo’s executive corps is Black.” She says that careers in her company are evolving. Anand, and Sodexo’s Black executives, work with the National Urban League’s Black Executive Exchange Program to bring students at four-year Historically Black Colleges and Universities together with professionals in their fields and industries of interest.

    Sodexo helps students to become employees and corporate executives in their fields of interest. In addition, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples’ Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics Youth Initiative Program (ACT-SO) helps develop new generations of chefs. Sodexo and Hyatt Hotels partnered with ACT-SO to develop a new Culinary Arts Competition program.

    Anand says Sodexo has opportunities for diverse suppliers across the country, ranging from regional to national contracts.  Anand says Sodexo is committed to receiving products and services from diverse suppliers who provide products and services for food menus, high-quality goods, and service divisions. Individuals and companies interested in participating in Sodexo’s programs and business activities, or being on Supplier Listings should contact: Supplierdiversity.NorAm@sodexo.com.

    Anand says, “In coming years, Sodexo expects to continue hiring of traditional culinary jobs, facilities, engineering and general management positions within large metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Chicago, D.C., and Los Angeles.”

    William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.

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