Helping our supply partner Thomas Kneale & Co. with their net zero strategy

Published on : 10/30/23
  • Sodexo was one of the first organisations to have its 2040 net zero target validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). 34% of the business’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions sit within its supply chain, so collaboration with supply partners is key to Sodexo’s net zero ambitions. Sodexo has given its supply partners a deadline and by 2030 will only partner with suppliers who can demonstrate tangible net zero progress.

    60% of Sodexo’s supply chain in the UK and Ireland is made up of SME and VCSE suppliers, most of which cannot be expected to have teams dedicated to sustainability. Sodexo is offering support to these businesses – such as Thomas Kneale & Co., an SME that was already starting to decarbonise but wanted some help to scale it up. 

    A small company with a long pedigree 

    Based in Manchester and employing 20 people, ThomasThomas Kneale colleagues Kneale & Co has been delivering high-quality textiles for more than 75 years. Originally, its bedroom and bathroom linen would arrive at people’s homes via mail-order. Today, its market is commercial accommodation and it’s been working with Sodexo since 2000. This includes supplying products like bedding and towels to the seven prisons that Sodexo manages on behalf of the Ministry of Justice and Scottish Prison Service. 

    Thomas Kneale’s Director, Brett Mendell, explains the company’s heritage:  

    “Manchester is one of the homes of Britain’s textile industry and Thomas Kneale has always been synonymous with great service. Our customers are major companies now, but that emphasis on service remains. When people call, we’ll pick up the phone, and we operate from the early hours of the morning until late.”  

    Considering the impact on people and planet 

    The company retains some manufacturing capability in the UK, but the bulk of its textiles come from China and the Indian subcontinent, where one particular mill has been a supplier for more than 20 years. 

    They had been considering their social impact for some time, becoming a Living Wage Foundation Employer, sourcing Fairtrade cotton and reducing plastic packaging. As a result, they won SME of the year at Sodexo’s Partners with Purpose awards. However, carbon emissions reduction was posing a particular challenge, as Brett explains:  

    “A couple of years ago, we joined a 10-week programme on net zero for SMEs that was funded by Manchester’s Business Growth Hub. It reassured us that we were doing the right things, but we needed to create a path forward. We hit a brick wall, and then Sodexo got in touch.”  

    Working with Sodexo to remove a progress-blocker 

    We reached out to Thomas Kneale as part of our net zero engagement strategy and offered to mentor them as they developed their decarbonisation plans to become net zero by 2050, in line with the SME Climate Hub. They said yes straight away, so we introduced Brett to our Net Zero Lead (UK&I), Simon Mussett, in June 2022.  

    Simon explains how he worked with Brett:  

    “At the start, we talked about the concept of net zero, sources of greenhouse gas emissions and the different ‘Scopes’ they fall into. Then in future sessions we got into the detail, looking at the data they had, how to interpret it and how to calculate a baseline. They were already doing some great things, so I saw my role as helping them quantify and report their progress. 

    “Being able to understand some of the complexities and challenges they faced has enabled us to apply this learning into our approach with other SMEs.”  

    After six months of formal sessions and email support from Sodexo, Brett is far more confident about Thomas Kneale’s path to net zero. He found the advice on calculation particularly useful, because while there are tools out there to help, you need to be sure about the data you’re putting in: 

    “Calculating a baseline is how you track progress, but it’s a daunting task. Simon advised which calculators may be suitable to us and what we might do differently in future. He reassured us that the process of carbon accounting is a cycle of continuous improvement.

    We can now show that we’ve reduced our Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 50% compared to our 2018 baseline, and we couldn’t prove that before.” 

    Supporting Thomas Kneale’s own net zero engagement 

    The progress made on calculation will also help Thomas Kneale to accelerate work with its own supply chain. The company was already engaging on social and environmental issues – with one mill opting to install 850 solar panels to replace the use of fossil fuels, for example – but now they share a common language and calculation methodology that will help them achieve more. 

    Brett says:  

    “We’re very pleased with our ongoing work around carbon reduction, yet we had been struggling to translate our actions into clear and meaningful numbers.

    Getting that extra support from Sodexo has added rigour to our work and given us real confidence in our plans.

    Even though our formal sessions have ended, I still call on Simon for advice and it’s great to know that that there’s someone there to help.” 

    Find out more about Sodexo’s net zero engagement strategy