Mark Chalmers is CFO and Country President for Sodexo in Australia. “I'm responsible for driving corporate governance and strategic responsibility for our operations across Australia,” he confirms. “In the process, I work with the country leadership team to ensure we're correctly engaged and aligned to drive growth retention and development, while constantly improving profitability and attracting, developing, and retaining the right talent to sustain that growth.”
Introducing some of the initiatives Sodexo is implementing in Australia to elevate its culture and improve the quality of life for its workers, Chalmers says: “We label one of our most important initiatives ‘I Hear You’. It was launched five years ago to increase awareness and understanding around the mental health of our people and trying to elevate approaches to mental health to match our approach to physical health and safety. We're trying to provide a healthy workplace environment where people will develop and have a positive sense of themselves while feeling supported with any mental health issues.”
He notes the feedback received is among the most positive for any of the programmes Sodexo runs. “People who are raising issues are supporting each other. It’s good to know we’re not falling on deaf ears and people are becoming involved.”
Chalmers believes that Sodexo’s commitment to Australia’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) is having a positive impact on Indigenous engagement, enhancing supplier diversity and supporting new ways of working together. “We began down this road back in 2009,” he reveals. In our last financial year, we've spent more than $24mn with Indigenous owned businesses. We operate on the basis that we're not just treating this as a transactional relationship, we are mentoring and guiding the establishment of businesses or refining businesses process to be more commercially competitive.”
Technology underpins such initiatives at Sodexo maintains Chalmers. “We're introducing a data-driven WasteWatch programme enabling our sites to capture food waste data and identify opportunities that reduce waste and drive the change there as to how we use it. We're looking to implement that over the next 12 months both in Australia and across the world with Artificial Intelligence (AI) preventing around 50% of our food waste.”
In 2019, the company was also named Indigenous Employer of the Year and is continuing to step up its efforts around inclusion and diversity through its collaboration with e.motion 21, supporting young people with disabilities into the workforce.
The goals for 2020 and beyond are clear, pledges Chalmers: “We’ll continue to improve our client offerings and grow our business in Australia by providing a broader range of quality of life services while supporting corporate responsibilities and keeping our people safe.”