Diversifying our supply chain & promoting student enterprise

SPONSORED: By Tom Laskey, Business Development Director, Sodexo Universities

Earlier this month we published our second Public Service Pledge, a set of commitments which we’ll report on annually, which aims to demonstrate our continued investment in our people, communities and the customers we serve. Two of the pledges we’ve made are around commitments to working with staff mutuals, SMEs and voluntary or community organisations in our supply chain. Currently over half of our core supply chain is with SMEs or social enterprises and we have committed to a value of £200m of our business value benefiting SMEs by 2025, representing an increase from 24% to 32% of our total spend.

This is a commitment that certainly chimes with our university clients, most of whom have made similar pledges and are actively looking to engage more with SMEs, as well as with our young consumers, who increasingly want the companies and brands they buy from to act sustainably and ethically.

“Working collaboratively with Sodexo has been fabulous for our students, graduates and the Careers, Placements and Student Opportunities Team alike. The main focus of the funding has been to enable students to have access to opportunities which may have previously been seen as unattainable. We have seen some amazing successes through the programme, including 15 businesses incorporated and students undertaking work experience in London, New York and Dubai. We look forward to continue to evolve this partnership into the future.” – Emma Vincent, Head of Professional and Career Development, York St John University 

We are making the Pledge commitment a reality in a number of ways. For several years we have run our Supply Chain Inclusion Programme, through which we engage with SMEs, social enterprises, ethnic minority or women-owned businesses, to help them with the knowledge to build commercial relationships with large organisations like Sodexo. The programme includes one-to-one mentoring and a day with Sodexo’s main food distributor, Brakes Group. Following the programme, participants have the opportunity to have their products or services successfully listed and incorporated into the Sodexo supply chain, as well as building the knowledge and insight to help them build their brand awareness and develop new commercial relationships.

“We are very proud to be working with Sodexo. Their reach into university sites allows us to communicate how we use coffee to reduce homelessness across the UK to the people who seem to respond the best to our message. The national difference we can make to our communities through the relationship with Sodexo can help lift many people who have been forgotten on our streets, back into society.” – Cemal Ezel, Founder, Change Please

Within our universities’ supply chain we have developed a number of relationships with organisations who can help us bring in small businesses and brands. One such organisation is BLINK, a food service company who help us work with a number of pre-vetted small businesses and independent operators to offer a portfolio that is truly diverse and authentic. Across our London university contracts we have also teamed up with social enterprise Change Please, giving over the coffee cart in UCL’s main quad. Change Please is an organisation that helps tackle the issue of homelessness by empowering the homeless community to become baristas. It offers its employees full barista training,  pays them London Living Wage as well as arranging housing, bank accounts and mental support.

Eleanor Tomlinson, 2nd Year Illustration student, York St John University:

“I was fortunate enough to receive the full grant which will enable me, as an artist and second year Illustration student, to attend the large Country Living Christmas Fair at Harrogate. This opportunity for my fledgling business is invaluable as it will allow me to advertise and exhibit my work and products to new and large target audiences.”

Finally, we are supporting our clients’ development bursary schemes to help students and graduates achieve their career and enterprise ambitions. At York St. John University we provide the Sodexo Business Start Up Fund, a bursary scheme through which students can receive seed funding and mentoring to progress their business idea. Students can also secure a Career Aspiration Bursary to remove the financial barriers to seeking internships and insight days or weeks. The scheme is particularly designed to support students in internships with local SMEs and charities, who wouldn’t necessarily have the funds to support traditional paid internships. An amazing 70% of students who have gone through the scheme go on to work for the organisation following their internship.

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Blended learning – Did we forget about the students?

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Wednesday, June 15, 11AM London BST

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