Sodexho: Influence / Lobbying
A Corporate Profile
By Corporate Watch UK
Completed February 2004
Interestingly, Sodexho is not a member of any of the key European or US lobby groups, such as the European Roundtable of Industrialists, the European Services Forum or the US Coalition of Service Industries, all of which are pushing for a further liberalisation of services under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Corporate Watch can see no reference to Sodexho having attended any of the major service industry conferences or congresses, such as the 'World Services Congress' in 199940 or Services 2000: A Business-Government Dialogue on US Trade Expansion Objectives” which focused on the service industry's priorities at the WTO negotiations.41
Campaign contributions in the USA
The Centre for Public Integrity lists Sodexho as having contributed £25,632 to the political campaigns between 1990 and the fiscal year ending 2002. Over that same period, the company won federal contracts worth $23,456,000,42 including military contracts to cater for marines in Afghanistan and Iraq.
American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
Whilst Sodexho was working in partnership with Corrections Corporation of America, it was a member of ALEC. ALEC is a Washington, D.C.-based public-policy organization that supports conservative legislators. Of the more than 6,000 state legislators in the United States, nearly 3,000 are members of ALEC, including scores who hold key leadership positions. Business foots much of ALEC's $6-million operating budget and directly shapes its political agenda. Details of direct links between expansionist private prison policies and state legislators who belong to ALEC are detailed in Edwin Bender's article “Private Prisons, Politics & Profits.43
Sodexho UK Ltd’s accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), is not only an accountancy firm but also a back door lobbyist for PPP/PFI schemes. Along with other accountancy firms, it has developed the "value for money" test used for such projects, and has also produced reports for the government on the benefits of PFI and PPPs. PWC is the biggest of the five key global accountancy firms, and stand to profit most from the privatisation of services. To date it has profited worldwide to the tune of £22 billion and in 2000 advised the UK government on 90 PFI projects worth £8.3 billion.44
The New Local Government Network (NLGN)
The 'New Local Government Network', which calls itself a think-tank, campaigns for more private sector involvement in the public sector. On the board of the NLGN is Professor Paul Corrigan, who also works in the Department of Health as a special adviser to Alan Milburn. The organisation lobbies ministers on behalf of more than 40 corporate sponsors, who between them contribute up to £500,000 a year. Sodexho is one of the NLGN sponsors who has also gained lucrative NHS contracts. Professor Corrigan is also married to Hilary Armstrong, Labour's Chief Whip.45
Herb Nahapiet, Executive Director of UK Detention Services, sits on various government quangos, as well as being a visiting professor at the Bartlett, the faculty of the Built Environment at University College, London. See section on UK senior executives.
Sodexho is heavily involved in feeding students from primary school to universities and higher education colleges. Under the PFI scheme, it looks likely that it will expand its role to include other services. For example, at the Rotherham PFI schools project, Sodexho will have a contract which will include “general management and help desk facilities, site management, janitorial, portering, security, building maintenance, grounds maintenance, asset maintenance”.46
Sodexho UK do some educational work around food including pupil committees and theme days in schools. In primary schools it operates 'Club Joules', which is a 'fun school food club'. See www.clubjoules.com. It thankfully has no other educational imput into the school curriculum.
It gives unversity bursaries to students such as those in the faculty of arts at the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada and the Sodexho scholarship at the Memorial University of Newfoundland.47 Sodexho also have a room named after them at King’s College, London.48
Sodexho Research Institute on the Quality of Daily Life
The Sodexho Institute is “a unique global tool for analysing the present and future needs and behaviour of consumers around the world...Through its partnership with international organizations, such as the UN, UNESCO, and the WHO, and a wide range of interviews with leading experts, the Institute collects and analyzes vast quantities of data to publish approximately two research papers a year on topics related to the quality of daily life. Research papers produced include "Gender Differences in Eating Patterns in Children" and "Workers value their Private Lives over their Jobs". Surprise surprise!49
In addition, but complementary to the Sodexho Research Institute, Sodexho also undertakes research specific to the UK market. These include the biannual Sodexho School Meals Survey, published in September 2002, as well as ad hoc projects throughout the year.
So basically the Sodexho Research Institute is a forecasting and marketing tool.
Centre for Quality of Daily Life at Work
The Centre is a network of leading employers and employees who want to better understand the importance of quality of daily life - especially at work - so that organisational environments can be made a better place to work. Sodexho is the foundation sponsor of this project.
In the USA
"We strive to be the type of company that help to create the type of world we want for tomorrow. As a leading provider of outsourced food and facilities management services throughout North America, we’re committed to continuing to lead our industry in helping to address the challenges that are impacting our communities." Sodexho Inc. website
Sodexho's corporate social responsibility work is mainly focused on charitable donations and supporting 'Habitat for Humanity International', a 'not for profit' homebuilding organisation that gives grants for housing poor people.50 Another major "campaign" is Sodexho's S.T.O.P Hunger campaign www.helpstophunger.org. This includes food donations; Caring Cans, where non-perishable surplus food can be donated at Sodexho locations; the Servathon, where every April, Sodexho employees join forces to donate food and serve meals in their local communities, and the work of The Sodexho Foundation.
The company is especially fond of talking about its adoption of the "Global Sullivan Principles", but Sodexho has yet to put those principles into action. See report on Not With Our Money for more information.51 For a more in depth critique of the 'Global Sullivan Principles' see www.labournet.net/world/0209/sodprofile.pdf
The Sodexho Foundation
The Sodexho Foundation was founded in 1999. The Mission of the Foundation is to be "a driving and creative force that contributes to a hunger-free nation." Primary funding for the Foundation comes from Sodexho, with additional funding coming through employee payroll deductions and contributions. Additionally, Sodexho receives donations from its vendor partners. Projects include:
Feeding Our Future® which provides nutritious meals over the summer to kids that rely on state-funded meals during term-time; The Campus Kitchens ProjectsTM which encourages university students and catering staff to distribute leftover food to various relief agencies in the community; Community Kitchens, organized by "America's Second Harvest", that trains unemployed people to re-prepare rescued surplus food into balanced meals that are, in turn, served to other people in need; and finally Heroes of Everyday LifeTM which makes awards to Sodexho employees who have invested their time, talent, and spirit in helping those who suffer from hunger in their communities.
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Defending themselves against the accusation of being 'French'
"My colleagues and I abhor the idea of continuing to pour American dollars into a French-based firm when those dollars could be feeding our wartime economy."
Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican
In April 2003, various Republican congressmen approached Donald Rumsfeld to call for a boycott of Sodexho, who were supplying US troops in the Gulf, on the basis that they were 'French', and the French government were opposed to the US military attack on Iraq. Sodexho had recently signed an eight-year contract with the Marine Corps, worth US$881m.52
In response, Sodexho has pushed the boat out to prove that its a patriotic citizen.
"Sodexho and it’s 110,000 US employees are strongly dedicated to our nation’s values and traditions and fully support the men and women of our armed forces. We thank them and their families for the sacrifices they are making to serve and protect America.”53
Sodexho give support to US military kids through the Armed Forces YMCA: Project Hero (www.asymca.org/operation_hero.htm). They also support the 'Operation Dear Abby' website which allows supporters to 'send a special message to our men and women in the military defending American freedom worldwide'
Sodexho point out that this is not the first time Sodexho has been called into action to support U.S. troops.
'Since 1993, Sodexho has provided meals and logistical support to American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serving their country at home and abroad. Sodexho was there during Desert Storm, Operation Restore Democracy in Haiti, and Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia/Croatia. In addition, Sodexho provides all food and lodging for all the residents at the U.S. Strategic Missile Testing Range at Kwajalein Atoll and at 98 defense facilities in Korea, serving 105,000 U.S. troops, civilians and military dependents.'54
Corporate Social Responsibility in the UK
In the U.K., Sodexho's 'corporate social responsibility' programme is less brash and more about the pressing issue of social degradation in our towns and cities complete with images of deserted graffitti-ed housing estates on their website. Sodexho has literally dozens of projects on the go from the Duke of Ediburgh award scheme, to Education Action Zones (EAZ) and 'youth rugby in the community' (Sodexho also sponsor the Army rugby team) to more blatantly self-interested projects such as supporting the Springboard UK Futurechef competition and mentoring emerging talent in schools and colleges. It also encourages its employees to volunteer on their various programmes which must save Sodexho some money on CSR too. See www.communityconcern.co.uk
Sodexho also sponsor the Police service through the 'National Police Community Trust', a charity which supports police/community projects throughout England, including a booklet aimed at 7-11 year olds called 'A Young Person's Guide to Drugs, Tobacco and Alcohol'.
Sodexho pledged to raise £250,000 during 2003 for the company's new registered charity KidsOut. KidsOut is a national charity established to help disadvantaged children who may have learning difficulties or physical disabilities, or who are seriously deprived. The charity provides holidays and days out, grant aid, respite care and a helpline service.55
Sodexho UK as good as admit that being seen to be an 'ethical' company providing for the community is good for business, extensively quoting market research proving this link e.g.
'CSR has shifted decisively from 'nice to do' to 'need to do' - in 2000 32m UK consumers (67% of population) actively bought a product or service because it was linked to a cause.' 'Cause Related Marketing - Profitable Partnerships', BMRB International 2000
UK Public Relations
Sodexho’s public relations has been handled by Landmark Corporate Communications as well as by Sodexho UK's own inhouse team based in London. See above.
Contacts: Clare Collins 020 7832 7833 or Leah Latimer 020 7832 7804 .
In 2000, UKDS paid £80,000 in fees to Nicholas Hopkins Associates (£77,000 in 1999) for public relations services. Mr Hopkins is a director of UKDS.56 Richard Peters Associates has also done advertising for UKDS.57
41www.uscsi.org/events/services2000conf.html viewed 7/11/03
42www.publicintegrity.org/wow/resources.aspx?act=history viewed 16/11/03
44 ‘A Web of Private Interests: How the five big Accountancy Firms Influence and profit from Privatisation Policy’ no single author, a report commissioned by UNISON. www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/B362.pdf viewed 20/09/03
45Milburn aide lobbies for private NHS work by Chris Hastings and Rajeev Syal 18/11/03 The Telegraph
46 www.sodexho.co.uk/segments/pfi_schemes.html viewed 30/09/03
47 see, for instance www.sfu.ca/advancement/scholarships/donors/2003/S-Z.html or www.mun.ca/regoff/calendar/ScholarshipsEntranceStudentsMayQualify.htm viewed 06/10/03
48 www.kcl.ac.uk/depsta/admsup/sdtu/timetable.html viewed 07/10/03
49 www.sodexho.co.uk/media/research.htm viewed 07/10/03
50http://sodexhousa.com/corp_community.asp viewed 4/10/03
52'No French food' for US troops BBC online news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/2894383.stm
53 www.sodexhousa.com/military.asp viewed 25/08/03
55www.sodexho.co.uk/csr/charity.htm viewed 16/10/03
56www.psiru.org/justice/ppri44.asp#UNITED%20KINGDOM viewed 19/12/03
57www.richardpeterspr.co.uk/index.html viewed 16/11/03