Sustainability position nixed, green initiatives continue


Photo: Evan Walsh

Sodexo’s position of sustainability director at Emerson was eliminated in late October in a move by the company to reassign responsibilities and resources among its workers, according to Steve Canario, the company’s general manager at Emerson. Last semester, Melissa Amaral was the sustainability and marketing director at Sodexo. Other Sodexo employees have taken on her previous duties, said Canario. 

“Her role wasn’t solely to manage the sustainability piece or the marketing piece. She was an assistant manager here to help run the dining hall,” said Canario about Amaral’s responsibilities. “We relocated the responsibilities amongst the team.” 

Amaral began working at Emerson when Sodexo’s contract with the college began in August 2013.

“Leaving Emerson was not my choice,” Amaral wrote in a statement to the Beacon. “I still care very strongly about the sustainability movement at Emerson, and I am willing to support it in any way that I still can.”

She declined any further comment.

Canario declined to discuss any personnel-related topics, but said Sodexo’s commitment to sustainable causes is still ongoing.

“We didn’t eliminate the position because we wanted the function of that position to go away,” said Canario. “We are going to continue to forward the initiatives.” 

 Jay Phillips, associate vice president for facilities and management, negotiated the contract with Sodexo when the company was hired by the college last year. He said sustainability initiatives are part of the contractual agreement between Sodexo and Emerson.  

“When we hired [Sodexo], we told them that they must have trayless dining, and they must do composting,” said Phillips. “And I’m very happy with Sodexo’s response to that.”

Amaral’s abrupt departure raised concerns among the student population who worked with her last semester, and had praised her commitment to the campus community. 

“She was doing a lot of great work, but they let her go after one semester, which is kind of ridiculous,” said senior Rachel Hill, co-president of Earth Emerson, who said she was happy with Amaral’s receptiveness to student initiatives. “That whole thing doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

Currently, Sodexo’s dietitian Karen Jew, who works primarily at Emerson, visits Suffolk Universitywhich also contracts food services from Sodexoonce every two weeks to provide nutritionist services there, according to Canario.

A similar strategy has been implemented to replace Amaral at Emerson: Topher Mongeon, general manager of Sodexo at Suffolk, is now involved with sustainability initiatives at Emerson. 

Since Jew and Mongeon are employees of Sodexo, not Emerson or Suffolk, the company can send them to multiple institutions without violating service contracts with the colleges.

Phillips said upon Amaral’s departure, he was notified of Sodexo’s plan to bridge the potential gap her absence could cause.

“Even though it’s not necessarily Melissa, there is a sustainability coordinator that makes sure [Sodexo] continues to improve the sustainability initiatives we have,” said Phillips. 

Canario said Mongeon has years of expertise in sustainability.

“We are leveraging [Mongeon’s] skill set, as we are doing with Karen over there,” said Canario. 

Eric Van Vlandren, Emerson’s sustainability coordinator, said since Amaral is no longer working with Emerson’s green community, he has met regularly with Canario instead.

“I can’t characterize [Sodexo] as being non-responsive,” said Van Vlandren. “[Canario] has a lot of other responsibilities, but he’s been responsive about meeting with us.” 

Van Vlandren said he is satisfied with the way Sodexo has maintained its initiatives like sourcing food locally, improving signage of trash receptacles, and composting efforts since Amaral left.

“I would love it if they hired to someone to replace [Amaral], but I’m looking forward to working with Topher,” he said. 

Hill, a writing, literature and publishing major, has been working since last semester on the new indoor garden initiativea project that aims to eventually produce enough herbs to supply Sodexo’s demand at Emerson.

“[Sodexo was] willing to provide money to the garden, and we were going to provide products to them,” said Hill about an agreement she had reached with Amaral. 

Since Amaral’s departure, Hill said she is uncertain of Sodexo’s current stance on the garden proposal.

Canario said he will continue to support student initiatives, including the indoor garden.