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Sodexho USA’s PLANit program promotes environmental ethos and sustainability for employees and partners

Sodexho USA’s PLANit program promotes environmental ethos and sustainability for employees and partners

GAITHERSBURG MD. Sodexho USA, the North American arm of Paris-based contract foodservice conglomerate Sodexho Alliance, launched this month a companywide sustainability initiative intended to help employees, clients and customers become more environmentally conscious and energy-efficient at their respective on-site accounts. —

Called PLANit, the program is being rolled out in phases, starting with online training classes on the company’s intranet website. All 120,000 employees, from top-level executives to hourly workers, will be expected to complete the training, which addresses how to make operations green and sustainable, the company said. —

The sustainability initiative was announced Jan. 6 at Sodexho’s 3rd National Chef Association conference in Atlanta. —

According to company executives, the PLANit program consists of such tools as a database of local purveyors as well as information on how to purchase sustainable, local and organic products. In addition, marketing kits are available to help managers educate clients and customers about sustainability and how to achieve a greener footprint at their various facilities. —

Arlin Wasserman, newly appointed as Sodexho USA’s first vice president of corporate citizenship, is overseeing the program, which was vetted by a 40-member sustainability committee over two and a half years. The program also was tested for six months at five Sodexho accounts—National Geographic, Gannett’s USA Today, the World Bank, AOL Time Warner and Marriott International. —

“The opportunity is great,” Wasserman said. “There is a growing commitment to do something about sustainability. The convenient truth is the services our clients are now asking us to produce are the very things they need to adapt at their own facilities, and we are fortunate enough to be able to provide them to them.” —

Wasserman also referenced a recent report issued by the United Nations stating that changes in climate would be the biggest factor affecting global hunger in the future. —

“Not only must we support local agriculture, we must think about climate change,” he said. “We are in a unique position. We could choose to use florescent lighting, which we do, or use recycled paper, which we also do. What we’re really doing though is bringing our culinary and supplier expertise. We don’t need to issue a press release every time someone chooses the organic apple in the bowl.” —

PLANit will not only be implemented in North America, but at all of Sodexho’s accounts worldwide, said Lisa Larsen-Hill, the company’s senior vice president of marketing for corporate dining. —

“The whole model is being looked at,” she said. “The U.K. saw it and took it, and the French team did the same thing. This [project] has been an incredible journey, and the people involved have shown so much ardor, passion and participation. This could not have happened without them. I am bursting with pride to see this thing come together. This is not greenwashing.” —

Vijay Sharma, senior vice president of marketing for the company’s education market, agreed, saying: “We could have taken an easy tug-at-the-heart approach to sustainability, but to systematically make a change by educating people is huge.” —

Still, Wasserman said implementing the initiative would have its challenges. —

“It is going to be a difficult, hard road,” he said. “We sell food grown by other people and manage facilities owned by other people, and we are working with them in partnership.” —

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