Meet Former Chief Jonathan Kruger

Published on : 5/18/22
  • Sodexo Canada has spent years learning how to work with impacted communities in ways that focus not just on its day-to-day business, but also on what impact the company’s actions will have on the future of Indigenous prosperity. This approach has helped Sodexo gain recognition for its commitment to fostering impactful partnerships with Indigenous communities, nations and businesses.

    After 17 years in politics representing the Penticton Indian Band/Okanagan Nation, and eight years as Chief, Jonathan Kruger now guides Sodexo’s continued commitment to supporting Indigenous Communities and Nations as its Director of Indigenous Relations — a role he has held for over five years now.


    Interviewer: Why is supporting Indigenous business an important part of Sodexo’s strategy?

    Jonathan Kruger: I believe we’ve always been ahead of the 94 Calls to Action, and we have been walking our talk for over 20 years, even before Reconciliation was even talked about.

    Part of Sodexo’s ethos is to create a better tomorrow for our planet and the people who occupy it. A better tomorrow then means prosperity for Indigenous Communities and Nations, and I believe Sodexo supports that. The company believes in prosperity and quality of life for everybody, and it’s an important part of doing business on Indigenous lands in Canada — you have to create those relationships and partnerships moving forward.


    Interviewer: What might a partnership with Sodexo and Indigenous Communities and Nations look like?

    Jonathan Kruger: My responsibility as Director of Indigenous Relations is to continue to put ourselves out there when projects start coming about in Canada.

    We create safe spaces for open and transparent conversations. We approach Indigenous Nations and Communities to offer partnerships. We share what our plan is, our capacity building, our training programs and the opportunities for Indigenous businesses that can be created out of these projects instead of Sodexo owning them.

    We ask ourselves how we can work together to create something so that the community can take on some of those contracts.


    Interviewer: Why is it important to foster relationships with Indigenous Communities and Nations?

    Jonathan Kruger: Through my passion and life journey as an Indigenous leader who has entered the corporate world and is always learning, the one thing that I always turn to as my personal mission is Indigenous prosperity. Now that I am in the corporate world working for Sodexo, I get the opportunity to help with the Indigenous prosperity of many communities and nations.

    We work with 84 Indigenous-owned businesses and with 30 Indigenous Communities across Canada, while 22 percent of our business spend is with Indigenous suppliers. In our Energy & Resources segment, over 40 percent of employees are from the local communities — a high percentage of job creation.

    These numbers are a testament to our commitment. And that is what helps build relationships with communities, not just with the leadership but with actual community members. I’m really proud of these actions and proud to know that we have a plan that works.


    Interviewer: What made the Indigenous training and professional development programs successful?

    Jonathan Kruger: We’re doing some employee training and development programs, such as the Red Seal Certification Program and the Fitness Leader Training Program, and we have an excellent model that we’ll be using across the country.

    These on-site training and certifications give members of the Indigenous Communities work opportunities in the project that we’ve established near their community and beyond. Since launching in 2018, 75 employees have graduated from these programs.

    We’ve created this hub and we’ve collaborated with other businesses, colleges and universities so that we’re not limiting ourselves.

    With diversity at Sodexo, we think out of the box and plan how we can make these things happen, and we get it done — I’m really proud of that.


    Interviewer: What can other organizations learn from these experiences when implementing their own Indigenous engagement strategies?

    Jonathan Kruger: Consider our 84 Indigenous suppliers: If other big companies can do it — and some of them already are doing this — we’re working toward fulfilling our obligation to the 94 Calls to Action put forth by the Truth and Reconciliation Committee of Canada. The 92nd Call urges companies to step up and do real business with Indigenous Communities and Nations. I can tell you right now that Sodexo is following this action amazingly. We’re talking with the Indigenous Communities and Nations, and we’re coming up with plans so they and their Band members can be successful.

    What I hope is that we encourage other companies to follow suit. And this is for the future for all of us to be better. These actions are where we can start working together and learning from each other and encouraging each other to do better. And we're certainly taking that approach. We must share our story to encourage other companies, industries and government leaders to follow suit.

    That’s what builds the relationships, that’s what builds the partnerships, and that’s what builds pride. I’m so proud of Sodexo for doing what we’ve been doing, and I’m honoured to be a part of this team.