George Chavel

2011 CEO in Action

George Chavel
President and CEO, Sodexo, Inc.
Corporate Headquarters: North America, Gaithersburg, Maryland
Primary Business: Design, manage and deliver solutions contributing to clients’ organizations
Revenues: $3.5 billion
Employees: 120,000 worldwide

One of my key responsibilities as Sodexo’s CEO is to serve as the company’s chief culture officer. That means I set the tone. With help from some very capable leaders, I create and foster a healthy environment that encourages all our people to excel and reach their potential so they can deliver their very best to our clients, customers, and the communities in which we live and work.

As the leading provider of quality of daily life solutions, Sodexo North America serves 10 million people daily at more than 6,000 locations in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. To succeed, our organizational environment has to be diverse and welcoming for clients, customers, and our workforce. So I take a personal and visible interest in promoting diversity and inclusion deep into our cultural fabric, which makes me the chief advocate for these initiatives.

For example, I chair Sodexo’s Diversity Leadership Council, our formal diversity and inclusion governance platform. Diversity and inclusion is a key element of our business strategy and it’s an important component of everyone’s performance evaluation and bonus. But we don’t stop there. Genuine diversity requires inclusion because we believe a fully inclusive and open environment provides opportunities for all employees to contribute to our business success.

So to bring that culture of diversity and inclusion to life, we launched our first two Employee Network Groups just eight years ago. Today, we have eight groups – with over 3,000 members – that contribute to the professional development of our employees and enable them to participate in service projects in our communities. Our most recently launched network groups address intergenerational and military employee issues.

Sodexo expanded its commitment to diversity and inclusion in September 2010 by introducing an external Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board, comprised of seven accomplished outside business and community leaders with specific areas of expertise representing diverse communities. These leaders will help Sodexo stay focused on, and remain accountable for, making progress on our diversity and inclusion objectives.

We are very pleased this commitment has resulted in high employee engagement and retention, increased talent development opportunities, public recognition, and bottom-line success. Yet, Sodexo’s diversity and inclusion journey continues to evolve and we must continue to raise the bar. While I take great pride in what we have achieved together, I always challenge my leadership team to look beyond the accomplishments and identify new strategies and opportunities to drive Sodexo’s commitment to diversity and inclusion deeper into our organizational culture.

Education: BA, Economics and Management, Albion College
First Job: Stock boy on the loading dock of my father’s candy and tobacco wholesale distributorship
What I’m Reading: Employer Brand Leadership, by Brett Minchington
My Philosophy: Be yourself; treat everyone around you with respect and dignity; be open to new pos¬sibilities; listen to good advice.
Best Advice: Keeping employees happy is attainable by providing clear direction, setting expectations, and communicating intent.
Family: Married with two sons
Interests: Playing the piano, golf, Pittsburgh Steelers
Favorite Charity: Sodexo Foundation

  • D. Scott

    May 15, 2014 #1 Author

    I like what you say about treating everyone around you with respect and dignity. The problem is you have managers who should probably be retrained, learn how to treat others with respect and I would advice them to read the Energy Bus. The way they treat the employees is deplorable.


  • karen s.

    December 27, 2014 #2 Author

    How can your employees be happy and dignified when
    their managers commit wage theft? It hurts me to my
    very soul to have this done to me. I am a dedicated worker
    who works very hard. I make minimum wage and some
    days i barely have enough to eat.


  • Heather Alexander

    January 18, 2015 #3 Author

    It is a wonderful thing to be a proponent of diversity. Equal opportunity for everyone respectively is what progressive countries, governments and good leaders ideally strive for. Your public record on diversity is high profile and respectful, but I note some employees have concerns about their treatment by their managers. These managers in turn report to you. …… Do your high expectations and concerns regarding welfare and humanity extend to your food suppliers and how the products are sourced? I have noted some unsettling exposure of battery hens being utilized by one of your suppliers. Compassion starts with how you run your company, how you treat your people, and how humanely you source the products. But only if that matters to you and the reputation of your company.


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