FM Magazine spoke with Phil Hooper, corporate affairs director, Sodexo (UK and Ireland) about the company’s recent public service pledge.
In recent years Sodexo has announced initiatives targeted at improving the company’s social and environmental footprint - including a “Better Tomorrow Plan” (in 2009) and your Quality of Life programme. Aren't these platforms just nice-sounding rhetoric?
Absolutely not – Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow Plan was launched in 2009 by Sodexo Group and is our corporate responsibility strategy to 2020. In the UK, we then launched a country specific Better Tomorrow Plan to address the sustainability issues, which we identified through extensive and regular consultation with relevant stakeholders, that are key to our business in the UK and Ireland.
In the UK and Ireland Sodexo employs around 34,000 people at some 2,000 different locations. Through the services we provide, we touch the lives of millions of people and our challenge is to ensure that we manage our operations and relationships responsibly and we do this through the Better Tomorrow Plan.
Furthermore our actions are measurable and we report annually on our progress on the Plan in the UK and Ireland through our Corporate Responsibility Report; the 2015 report was published on 20 April and can be viewed on the Sodexo website [editor’s note: visit www.cr.sodexo.com).
We also are assessed by BITC’s Corporate Responsibility Index each year and this month it was announced that we had been awarded a rating of 93% (or 3.5 stars), up from 87 in 2014 and compared to an average of 91% for UK businesses. The BITC CR index is a scorecard for businesses to help measure, manage and integrate responsible business practice.
We have also received global accreditation. For eight consecutive years we have ranked at the best performing company for Economic, Social and Environmental performance in the benchmark RobecoSAM ‘Sustainability Yearbook 2015’ as Industry Leader and Gold Class. In addition to this Sodexo has been listed for the last four years among the FORTUNE World’s Most Admired Companies.
In March you made a (very public) “public service pledge”. What does the pledge entail and why was it necessary?
As a public service provider, we believe that we commit to a social not just commercial contract.
Our Public Service Pledge is designed to ensure we live out our principles through tangible commitments in key public service areas. It sets out initiatives which we promise to commit to, measure and report on annually. These commitments of course stand in addition to those already laid out in our contracts and in addition to our corporate responsibility programme.
We have organised the 16 commitments in our Pledge into three areas. The first is focused on how we deliver our public sector contracts. The second on reporting and our commitment to transparency – including our pledge to publish the savings produced for central government contracts and to publish the annual revenues of ourUKcentral government contracts where we are the sole contractor and where the Government allows. The third set of commitments, which apply right across our business, includes a series of measures - such as signing up to the Living Wage Foundation's Service Providers Scheme and setting a target for the employment of ex-offenders, apprentices and ex-service personnel or reservists - that will enhance the quality of life of our employees.
We believe that these measures will improve the public services we deliver for our country and make us more accountable. We also hope that, after a difficult period for the sector, our Pledge can help to rebuild trust and demonstrate the many positive examples of superb private sector provision of public services.
Cynics might suggested the pledge was timed to ‘take the edge’ off union criticism of redundancies announced in the wake of your Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC) contract win. Might they have a point?
Our Pledge was initiated long before the award of the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation contracts and is about how we want to do business supported by some strong, measurable commitments.
The potential redundancies at the CRCs relate to one contract that we operate and we will carry out appropriate consultation with staff, the unions and our client.
Overall around 60% of our business in the UK and Ireland is in the public sector and our Pledge is a consolidation of our commitments to improve transparency and accountability and to support our staff.
Will outsourcers and unions ever become bedfellows or does automation of FM processes, combined with what the Lord Chancellor has describes as the better “commercial nous” of commercial service providers, mean they will never see eye-to-eye?
At Sodexo we are committed to working with trade unions and there is no reason why we can’t enjoy a constructive relationship as we introduce new methods of working or employee benefits that improve the working environment and quality of life of our employees. In 2011, Sodexo in theUKbecame the first company in its industry to sign a National Framework Agreement with three of theUK’s leading trade unions – Unite, UNISON and GMB.
We are committed to recognising and respecting the right of employees to join the trade union of their choice, or not, as they may so choose and to bargain collectively, free from any form of retaliation that might impair their ability to exercise their trade union rights – as defined in the International Labor Organization principles.
Is Sodexo’s historic focus on catering services a help or hindrance in tendering for facilities management contracts?
It is a misconception that we primarily provide food services. Our heritage is in catering and we are proud of our success in that area and strive to provide culinary excellence where we provide food services. However over 50% of our turnover is now derived from other facilities management services which are not food related and the UK leads the way in Sodexo in that over half its turnover is in other FM services.
For example, in our Justice business we run five prisons where we provide every service in the prison and one of our main objectives is to reduce re-offending and to facilitate rehabilitation. We have over 20 years’ experience in the justice sector and this experience and focus on rehabilitation is very relevant and key for the delivery of the new probation contracts that we have won.
We also operate a number of PFI contracts in the Healthcare, Education and Defence sectors.
With other, prominent caterers also making headway in facilities management, it is pertinent to ask whether traditional service providers can learn anything from service delivery in catering?
We believe that our heritage in food service brings a customer service focus to our FM business. We think that the combination of our vast client experience and customer service focus from our catering roots with the more traditional FM professional services culture and its deployment of technology and its rigour in accredited process management systems provides us with a competitive advantage.
Sodexo describes itself as an integrated facilities management provider. How integrated or “total” is your services offering?
We provide integrated facilities management services that cover people, processes, equipment and infrastructure. We drive efficiencies and synergies between services which helps clients to run their business better.
In combining the diverse talents of our teams, Sodexo is the only company to integrate a complete range of services based on over 100 professions.
In the UK and Ireland we have dedicated centres of excellence relating to different services such as cleaning, waste, security, technical services which ensure that for each service we deliver we are providing consistency; the highest standard and using the right expertise.
Are your multi-technical and maintenance engineering capabilities up to scratch?
Our provision of both hard and soft facilities management services has grown rapidly over the last 10 years and in 2011 we acquired the asset management business of Atkins which has helped us accelerate our growth in the technical FM and property asset management market.
As mentioned previously we have centres of excellence – covering a wide range of services – to ensure consistency and high quality standards.
Globally we have developed an Asset Management Framework (AMF) to harness our best worldwide practices and define the Sodexo distinctive way for technical services and asset management. We are delighted that that our AMF has achieved ISO55001 Stage 1 accreditation at some sites.
How important are the UK and Ireland as markets for Sodexo?
The UK and Ireland is an important market for the Sodexo Group not only because it accounts for 8% of the global consolidated revenues but also because it is one of the most advanced in terms of the maturity of the FM market and FM represents over half of its business.
Does the award of significant public sector contracts to both Sodexo and Veolia suggest French service providers are better at managing facilities?
It is not about what nationality a company is but about the capability that a company has and the ability to provide well delivered services which meet clients’ needs and enable them to concentrate on their core business.
Sodexo is a global company and shares best practice across its business so that it can achieve its goal of providing a broad range of facilities management services which help to improve the quality of life of its clients, customers and employees.
What is the future of facilities management?
We are excited about the future as the FM market is growing and there is lots of potential.
We believe there is a need to ensure that facilities management is not treated as a commodity. We are putting the focus on how we can add value to client organisations and help them to deliver their objectives and outcomes.
With globalisation, the world has become a smaller place and there are many more global FM contracts and a need to share innovation and best practice across the world.