Improving Safety Performance and Quality of Life at Sodexo

Published: 2019

DuPont is supporting Sodexo’s creation of a sustainable corporate safety culture, benefiting both employees and clients in North America.


Strategic Shift in Corporate Direction – The Catalyst for Improvement


Quality of Life is central to the performance and growth of individuals and organizations. Working from this perspective, Sodexo has redefined how to best serve complex client needs across the industries served: Corporate, Schools, Universities, Government, Health Care, Senior Living, Sports and Leisure and Remote Sites.


Sodexo, Inc. is the North American subsidiary of the Paris-based Sodexo Group, a world-wide contract services management company touching the lives of 75 million consumers every day. Sodexo provides a variety of services to businesses, institutions and public entities in 80 countries with almost $23 billion in total annual revenues. In North America alone, Sodexo serves more than 15 million consumers every day at 9,000 client sites. Wherever they work, Sodexo employees are dedicated to making every day a better day for people and organizations. Their goal is to improve Quality of Life.


Sodexo recently committed to this shift in strategic direction and is evolving into an integrated multi-service organization providing clients with more technical services in addition to existing food services. The change in strategic direction into an integrated multi-service organization is the catalyst to search for ways to add dollars back to the bottom line, and to enhance employee performance for all areas of the company.


To facilitate this shift in corporate strategy, Sodexo leadership undertook an internal assessment to measure key benchmarks. Sodexo recognized safety could be a competitive advantage and differentiator resulting in improved financial performance. Sodexo engaged DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS) for assistance in assessing the safety culture in the North American operations and in identifying opportunities for improvement. While Sodexo had a strong program in place, leadership wanted to chart a course for world-class status; similar to the status Sodexo has achieved for its diversity and inclusive culture.


Safety Performance Enhancement


The gap analysis and comprehensive assessment conducted by DSS served as the blueprint for senior leadership to competitively differentiate itself by operationalizing the safety function.


Improving safety performance in an organization as expansive and diverse as Sodexo is extraordinarily challenging. Further complicating the implementation process is the dynamic of Sodexo services being provided at their client sites, in a highly decentralized environment not controlled by Sodexo. A plan to account for these unique challenges was critical to ensure a successful implementation.


With DuPont’s support and guidance, Sodexo leadership realized success would require a phased approach with active involvement from all levels of management. For safety to become a core value and part of the DNA of the organization, a paradigm shift was necessary.


Olivier Poirot, Senior Vice President and CFO of Sodexo North America, believes moving from a food to a solutions company made safety improvement a strategic goal for everyone in the company. The main challenge Sodexo faced had to do with process. It took some time to get aligned as an organization. Poirot shared, performance shifted from a smaller internal safety team to all of operations management. The first step was how to best teach the individual operating unit managers to be safety leaders. A safety leadership strategy was needed for operational leadership as well. It was not just about being good; it was about being better and laying a long-term foundation for the journey to world class recognition. Poirot shared, “the critical shift was from “We’re going to do it…”, to “We ARE doing it.”


Working with DSS, the responsibility for improving safety performance shifted from a smaller internal safety team to all of operations management. The first step was how to best teach the individual operating unit managers to be safety leaders. A safety leadership strategy was needed for operational leadership as well. It was not just about being good; it was about being better and laying a long-term foundation for the journey to world class recognition.


Through the development of the Sodexo Safety Sustainability Program, operational teams were trained by DuPont to take over the processes, and assume responsibility and accountability for the units’ performance. Olivier Poirot believes DuPont added instant credibility in helping to dislodge any barriers to change; “We used DuPont as our guide. But we took ownership.” As Peter Rosiere, Vice President, Sodexo North America Risk Management shared, “The change in the safety culture was so quick, and so effective… it worked out better than we had hoped.”


Impressive Results in A Short Time


In North America, Sodexo has 4,800 units operating on 9,000 client sites. As part of the phased approach, 30 units were designated as the pilot program in year one for implementation of operations best practices. In parallel to the pilot work, an operations management structure was developed and implemented to enable expansion across all sites.


At the end of year two of the implementation process, safety performance has been improved by 20 percent. In year one, Sodexo estimates there has been $600,000 in claim expense savings and key metrics have been met or exceeded. TCOR (Total Cost of Risk) Variable is a new incentive program for Sodexo, which indicates there are 280 fewer Workers’ Compensation claims in the inventory resulting in the return of $5 million to operations. While Sodexo’s safety efforts have reduced the EMR (Experience Modification Rate) rate from 1.1 /1.2 to 0.97 - below the critical target of 1.0, DuPont’s approach and support will further help Sodexo to ensure this critical requirement is maintained and continually reduced.


Michael McMillan, Executive Senior Consultant with DSS, believes the key is to helping Sodexo demonstrate that safety is a part of Sodexo’s value proposition. Both Sodexo senior management and the operating teams at the pilot sites are getting greater opportunities to positively impact their safe work environments.


The goals for Sodexo North America include not just metrics, but support of a heightened culture of safety for managers and employees. The pilot program also ties in with Sodexo’s global focus on safety.


With this culture shift, Sodexo is also seeing an increased number of “champions” among the 400 VPs and district managers responsible for the company’s North American operations. According to McMillan, the senior leaders are very progressive.

“We truly work as partners. We all are very flexible and engage at various levels of the organization. We are practical at what we do. And we present only what is truly actionable by Sodexo.”

Michael McMillan, DSS Executive Senior Consultant

Olivier Poirot shared, “DSS is a pleasure to work with… the team was sophisticated, experienced and approachable. DuPont’s world-wide reputation of safety excellence and expertise added to the credibility and ease of acceptance, not only by senior leadership, but by the employees. It was an excellent integration with our organization.” He also believes, “There is great collaboration and information sharing between DuPont and Sodexo. As a result of DuPont’s efforts, fewer employees are being injured, and fewer customers are being injured. In addition, through collaboration with DSS, our leadership is being reminded to keep doing better.”


Dick Desrochers, President, Comprehensive Service Solutions for Sodexo North America, agrees the greatest challenge was engaging and gaining alignment with the executives. As he shared, “We worked with DuPont to get buy-in of the President’s Council, and then our SVPs and VPs, and district and general managers. We then moved forward with the pilot accounts. Another challenge was to get site operators to complete the safety walks and safety observations; it took a bit more time for that element to be in place. However, once that happened, we had great results in our pilot program. We want to sustain the momentum we’ve gained from the original 30 sites. I believe we’ve done a good job in maintaining the progress of year one.”


The Value of DuPont to Sodexo


The best in class reputation of DuPont, along with their culture and record in safety as an organization, were keys to why Sodexo selected DuPont for this engagement.


As Dick Desrochers shared, “DuPont knows how to engage an organization in the project. DuPont is persistent and consistent in their approach. They provide exceptional reporting on progress and offer great value in implementation.” According to Desrochers, Sodexo now has a better, stronger safety culture. There was a penchant for zero tolerance mindset… now it is a mindset.


Mårten Stenfors of Sodexo helped negotiate the DuPont engagement with the safety team. As Sodexo Head of Performance and Operations Improvement, and Environment, Health and Safety, QA and Food Safety, Stenfors identified the key goals for safety as first, ownership at the operational level and second, ownership and governance at the executive level.

“We did have a good safety program in place, but one of the biggest challenges was the lack of safety ownership at the operational level. DSS enabled our safety culture to shift from merely talking about it, to having it ingrained in our people.”

Mårten Stenfors, Sodexo Head of Performance and Operations Improvement, and Environment, Health and Safety, QA and Food Safety

Through persistence and expertise, DSS demonstrated that in order for the program and safety improvement to be effective, it has to emanate from the top and has to be consistently nurtured. It has to be part of an organization’s DNA to recognize the importance of safety of employees and clients, and to incorporate safety into the design of services and the delivery of those services.


The collaborative team of Sodexo and DuPont created a customized safety leadership program with execution to take Sodexo to the next level.


Dick Desrochers suggests companies who are committed to creating a sustainable safety culture “be absolutely certain you have the support and engagement of your top-level executives before you begin this journey. DuPont knew where we were and where we wanted to be… to get to the next stage, we needed DuPont.”


Progress Continues


Today, not a single meeting is held that doesn’t start with a safety moment from the CEO level down throughout North America. The process of developing true safety ownership throughout the organization continues.


Providing a New Perspective on Safety


According to Mårten Stenfors, the most significant value DuPont provided was offering Sodexo a new perspective on safety. That was due in part to the magnitude of DuPont’s experience from working with different industries and accounts. As Stenfors says, “DuPont’s outside insights are something that everyone needs. In fact, the real benefit of having an outside consultant like DuPont is to get your organization to the next level. Not only have we gained a lot of value, but our people have also grown.”


About Sodexo North America


Sodexo is the leading food and facilities management services company in North America and a member of Sodexo Group. Every day, more than 120,000 Sodexo employees work to improve the quality of daily life for clients and customers all over the U.S.A., Canada, and Mexico. They offer a full range of outsourcing solutions to the corporate, healthcare, education, government, and defense markets, including food services, housekeeping, grounds keeping, plant operations and maintenance, and integrated facilities management.


Sodexo believes in acting with high ethical standards in all business practices. They also help build pride and confidence in their workers. As a part of communities across America, Sodexo works hard to be a good corporate citizen. The company participates in the U.N. Global Compact, a program that brings companies together with U.N. agencies and labor and civil society groups. Sodexo is also recognized by socially responsible investors across the world, and is listed on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, World Index, and STOXX Sustainability Index.