Driving Sustainability on Campus

Published on : 3/31/23
  • Name: Kate Shearer 
    Title: Director of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility
    Segment/Site: Campus 
    Years with Sodexo: 10 
    Areas of expertise: Sustainability, CSR, Energy and Environmental Policy, Waste Reduction

    Kate Shearer brings Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow 2025 roadmap to life each day. She works with college campuses across the United States, helping operations teams add value for clients and customers by focusing on socially responsible practices and offers. Kate strives to enable onsite teams to make meaningful impacts through waste reduction, plant-based foods, sustainable packaging and more. One way she does this is by leading a team of regional sustainability champions, Sodexo employees who work in operations and — in addition to their primary job duties — maintain a focus on implementing social responsibility initiatives, tracking results and supporting other teams throughout their region.

    Kate is originally from Toronto but currently holds citizenship for three countries: Canada, Australia (where she lived for five years) and the U.S. Her international travels helped her develop a unique perspective on the importance of protecting the planet and safeguarding resources. Here, she shares about her experiences and what drives her work. 

    Interviewer: What makes you passionate about CSR and sustainability work? 

    Kate Shearer: I’ve always been passionate about the injustice surrounding environmental issues. I spent a large part of my early life travelling. I lived in Mexico City for three years as a child and witnessed pollution and poverty. It really opened me up to other communities’ realities and helped me develop empathy for people and the challenges they face. Those types of experiences make you acutely aware that there’s a world beyond your own. It’s very easy to go about your day, overlooking the broader impact of your actions, if those impacts are not felt in your backyard. But those problems are in someone’s backyard. Our actions can potentially impact many other people. 

    Interviewer: What is the most satisfying or impactful CSR project you’ve worked on? 

    Kate Shearer: Right now, the thing I’m most excited about is shepherding our campus segment through the process of defining a roadmap to achieve Sodexo’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by 34% by 2025. We have to start by measuring our current emissions per activity so we can understand what actions move the needle. I’m leading that effort for Sodexo Campus, and it feels very meaningful because of the urgent need to combat climate change. Looking beyond 2025, the next goal will be to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, which is even more exciting. 

    Interviewer: How can Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow Commitments help our clients reach their sustainability goals? 

    Kate Shearer: Because we deliver services at our clients’ sites, our actions directly impact their carbon footprint. We’re not a separate entity. We’re part of their operations, and our actions can either help them achieve their goals or hold them back. College students are passionate about sustainability, and they often have their own ideas and expectations about what actions their campus should take. Gen Z expects socially equitable practices, accountability and transparency. Colleges need to keep sustainability and other social responsibility goals front-and-center to assure students that they are committed to addressing these issues, and Sodexo can be an invaluable partner in that. 

    Interviewer: What should companies be doing to truly move us toward a healthier planet? 

    Kate Shearer: Taking an honest look at their business and identifying their current areas of impact and the areas where they can make a difference. Not every business has the same type of environmental impact and opportunity. For some companies, their greatest impact is from within the food system. At other companies, the biggest opportunity could be energy efficiency. Once companies have determined where they can make the most difference, they can set public targets to hold themselves accountable. Even if the initial goals aren’t extremely ambitious, it’s crucial to get the process moving. For example, initially Sodexo Campus set a target to shift our resident dining menus to 34% plant-based by 2025. Setting the target helped us analyze menus and identify gaps, basically shifting our focus. Now, we’re on track to exceed that goal and have revised our commitment to shift our resident dining menus to 50% plant-based by 2025. It’s all about starting wherever you are and moving forward.