Sodexo Drives Down Waste and Water Use at Cox and National Geographic

Sodexo Drives Down Waste and Water Use at Cox and National Geographic

Cafeteria image CC-licensed by Flickr user littlegraypixel

Sodexo made headlines in recent months with a new sustainable seafood sourcing policy and fellowship program that will have graduate students benchmarking the results of its sustainability efforts.

The foodservice and facilities management company touted those efforts in a new citizenship report released last week that offers a snapshot of its achievements at several client sites across the country. Sodexo manages sites and provides food services at about 6,000 offices, schools, hospitals, and other sites in North America.

The company established a set of sustainability performance indicators and aspirational goals over the next 10 years, such as broad "Better Tomorrow Commitments" to reduce water and carbon intensity at its sites and reduce non-organic and organic waste. Spokewoman Jaya Bohlmann told Thursday the company is in the process of developing hard targets in these areas with target dates of 2015 or 2020.

The company did spotlight individual efforts and results from some specific initiatives in its 2008-2009 report. Sodexo, for example, helped National Geographic drive down water consumption by 18 percent between 2006 and 2009 at its on-site cafeteria. The amount of waste composted also has inched up steadily since 2006, when more than 20 tons of food waste was turned into fertilizer rather than being sent to landfills. The figure grew to more than 30 tons in 2007 and topped 60 tons a year later. Sodexo predicts the site will compost nearly 70 tons this year.

Waste reduction provides Sodexo with many opportunities to trim its environmental footprint. The company managed to cut waste at Cox Communications by 80 percent since March 2008 by recycling or composting all paper, cardboard, food products and plastics used in the company's cafeteria.

Sodexo holds contracts with several college campuses across the country, where it has tweaked cafeteria dining systems to reduce waste. For instance, 40 percent of its campuses moved to trayless dining systems, yielding an average 30 percent decline in food waste. A reusable take-out container program could cut disposable waste by up to 80 percent.

To cut its own water consumption, the company turned its eye on its Laundry and Linen Services group charged with washing towels, sheets, patient gowns and other linens. Fifteen of its laundry facilities introduced water recycling systems to treat wastewater for reuse, trimming its companywide water use by 200 million gallons, saving some facilities $200,000.

Sodexo announced earlier this month a partnership with nonprofit Net Impact that will create a sustainability fellowship program to have graduate students assess the results of its sustainability initiatives. The first group of 10 to 15 fellows will begin work in January.

Sodexo also joined forces with the Marine Stewardship Council in a bid to source all of its seafood from sources certified as sustainable by the nonprofit by 2015. Sodexo buys roughly 10 million pounds each of wild-caught and farmed seafood annually.

Image CC-licensed by Flickr user littlegraypixel.