Claire Atkins-Morris

Claire Atkins-Morris

Director of Corporate Responsibility

In an exclusive discussion with Claire Atkins-Morris, she outlines the key components of Sodexo’s net zero strategy, plus tips for businesses

The various approaches to net-zero emissions turns the corporate sustainability landscape into a minefield. With more standards, frameworks, and support mechanisms coming in, this can lead sustainability champions to wonder how they direct their businesses towards this coveted goal. 

We asked the Director of Corporate Responsibility for Sodexo Claire Atkins-Morris about this, the elements to consider in a net zero strategy, and to provide some tips for other organisations.

What are the key elements in Sodexo's net zero strategy that has made it successful?

Sodexo’s net zero success is rooted in a multi-faceted strategy which focusses on our long-term commitment to achieving our 2040 target. It spans over a decade, showcasing a sustained dedication to addressing climate impacts. 

Our strategic partnership with the World Wide Fund (WWF), demonstrates a proactive approach to seek guidance and support from a leading global environmental charity; enabling us to set a comprehensive baseline which not only encompasses scope 1 and 2 direct operations but extends to cover all scope 3 GHG emissions. Science-based targets, both near- and long-term, that are validated by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), provide a credible and science-driven framework for emissions reduction. 

The development of a comprehensive regional roadmap that outlines ambitious GHG emissions reduction targets; a detailed transition plan that highlights key decarbonisation actions to achieving our climate goals; integration within a broader social impact pledge; and a continuous improvement culture allows Sodexo to actively learn from our experiences and continually refine our approach using insights to drive further reductions.

Transparency, authenticity and real change are fundamental to Sodexo’s approach to meeting, and exceeding, our environmental targets ahead of 2040. 

Our net zero Report, which was published in January, shows we are well on track to achieving our near-term science based targets by 2030 before becoming net zero by 2040. 

We are grateful to our clients, partners and suppliers for sharing our goals and working with us to achieve them.

What is the Science Based Targets initiative, and why is it relevant for companies looking to boost sustainability?

The Science Based Target initiative (SBTi) is a partnership between the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) for companies seeking sustainability excellence.  Its primary goal is to enable organisations within the private sector to set achievable, measurable science-based targets to reduce GHG emissions. 

Following the science and aligning with a consistent, transparent approach such as the SBTi ensures businesses are authentic and transparent in their journey and set a robust baseline to monitor the progress achieved. 

They are necessary targets if we are to keep 1.5°C alive. The science informs us that anything above this will create catastrophic impacts. 

Setting science-based targets ensures net zero strategies are aligned with climate science and on a pathway for limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

For Sodexo our business is large and complex, we provide a diverse range of services to large business and public sector clients, so to ensure our net zero strategy was thorough, impactful and transparent we opted to utilise the SBTi framework.  

By adhering to SBTi, businesses contribute to global efforts in mitigating climate risks, cultivating long-term sustainability and showcasing responsible corporate citizenship, and here at Sodexo we are very proud to be playing a leading role.

What are the benefits to collaboration in sustainability strategy?

From conception, the way we do business is led by our purpose; this is why our clients choose to partner with us. We acknowledge that we can only achieve these targets in collaboration with them.

Collaboration in sustainability strategy is paramount, as exemplified by Sodexo's community of practice. This initiative brings together sustainability leaders from diverse organisations, promoting a safe space for collaboration, knowledge-sharing and support. The benefits are: shared best practices, collective problem-solving and leveraging each other's experiences. This collaborative approach ensures a more robust and impactful response to sustainability challenges, driving positive change on a broader scale.

As we all know when looking at GHG emissions, we look at the different categories of Scope 1, 2 and 3 GHG emissions as per the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which is the international GHG accounting standard.  

For us scopes 1 and 2 account for just 1% of our GHG emissions, our indirect scope 3 emissions are our biggest opportunity and challenge. If we look at the biggest contributors, supply chain and client sites it is clear collaboration is the key to addressing this.

We were one of the first organisations globally to have our near- and long-term science-based targets validated by the SBTi. We have been transparent about our net zero journey and progress, including the fact that just 1% of our emissions sit in Scopes 1 and 2 and are in our direct control. Of the remaining 99% of total emissions, 34% sit within our supply chain. 

To address this we have recently announced our net zero supply chain engagement strategy which sets out five key milestones to 2030 where we will only partner with suppliers that can demonstrate tangible progress through published reporting. 

We first shared this with them in March 2023, at our supplier conference, and we are providing considerable support and mentoring to SMEs to help them achieve their net zero milestones. We have also granted a two-year grace period on the milestones requiring SBTi validated targets. Their response to this challenge, and to our offer of mentoring and other support, has been positive and we feel confident that this roadmap will deliver ever more impactful reductions in emissions. 

Many of our suppliers have already told us they are cascading this message through their own supply chain, which over time has the potential to create a significant ripple effect.

What proactive steps can companies take in effectively managing carbon footprint?

One of the most important steps for companies to effectively tackle decarbonisation is, first and foremost, understanding their impact and where their GHG emissions are coming from and defining what activities to include within their boundary. GHG emissions are classified into three different scopes, so it identifies direct and indirect emissions through transparent and accurate measuring. Companies should look to include 100% of scope 1, 2 and 3 GHG emissions in their boundary where possible.  

Once companies have a robust understanding of their GHG baseline, the next priority is to reduce absolute GHG emissions and set ambitious reduction targets. Select near-term and or long-term science-based targets and get them validated by the SBTi to ensure they are aligned with the latest climate science. 

After setting the ambition and level of decarbonisation required, the next step is to build a transition plan of emission reduction initiatives. Sodexo invested in the development of a global carbon trajectory tool to better understand what key action levers we need to pull, in what timeframe, for our region to reach net zero by 2040. This reinforces our impactful and transparent approach to achieve our goals.

Achieving net zero is complex and cannot be achieved in isolation; collaboration is key. Companies will need to work with peers, suppliers, clients, policy makers and others to innovate and drive change. For example, as a business we have launched our net zero supply chain engagement strategy and Community of Practice to work collaboratively with our suppliers and clients.

How are suppliers essential to Sodexo's net zero supply chain engagement strategy?

Recognising that 34% of our emissions reside in the supply chain, suppliers are integral to Sodexo's net zero supply chain engagement strategy. Sodexo engages over 4,000 partners and in order for us to achieve our net zero target, this is where collaboration with our supply partners becomes key, which is why we’ve set out through a series of milestones in our supplier engagement strategy roadmap. 

We set clear deadlines and offer mentoring, even providing a two-year grace period for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). 

In September 2023, suppliers accounting for 75% of our supply chain was required to provide detailed carbon reduction plans and report on scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions. By 2025, the same suppliers are then required to have their own science-based targets validated by SBTi. By 2027, the number of suppliers will increase to account for over 90% of our supply chain emissions covered by SBTi validated science-based targets. That way, we’re also helping them in their journey to net zero and sharing resources and expertise to best support them. 

Actively involving suppliers in carbon reduction plans, reporting, and validation ensures tangible progress. This collaborative approach is crucial for any company striving for a sustainable and resilient net zero strategy.

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