At Darden, people are the company’s most valuable asset. While growth and strong operations are important, Darden strives to create social value by contributing to the success and well-being of the people whose lives the company touches. Darden supports and develops employees by giving them opportunities to excel through education, competitive pay, valuable benefits and room for growth. Darden creates thousands of jobs in hundreds of communities in the U.S. and Canada and provides charitable dollars and volunteers to support the issues important to each community, including postsecondary education, preservation of natural resources and hunger relief. Darden has leveraged strategic partnerships around the globe, enabling the company to learn from others as well as teach what it has learned in order to drive large-scale change and expand its social impact.

Darden’s People commitments have four focus areas:

  1. Strong Culture:
  • Approach: Darden is committed to building a strong, people-focused culture where every employee is treated with respect and given opportunities to achieve his or her dreams.
  • In FY11, Darden was the first full service restaurant company named to the FORTUNE® “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. That success was repeated in FY12 when FORTUNE® also recognized Darden as a “Diversity Champion,” ranking it among the top 20 employers on the list for diverse workforces.
  • With nearly 180,000 employees at almost 2,000 restaurants, Darden is one of the 30 largest private employers in the United States. Darden employees are on the front lines, preparing and serving more than 400 million meals a year – making the difference between a good guest experience and a great one.
  1. Economic Impact:
  • Approach: Darden firmly believes sustainability will be a key contributor to the continued growth of the company, enabling Darden to provide economic benefits to a broad range of stakeholders. Effectively managing the company and ensuring it is financially successful is a precursor to achieving Darden’s sustainability aspirations. But that’s not to say that sustainability is an after-thought; sustainability is a core pillar of Darden’s overall corporate strategy because the company is firmly convinced that managing its business in a way that is aligned with its core values and conserves natural resources contributes to Darden’s long-term financial success.
  • Sustainability Savings: Between FY08 and FY11, Darden realized $18 million in costs savings as a result of its sustainability investments and the company estimates that it will save an additional $10-$12 million by FY16. In FY11, Darden’s sales from continuing operations were $7.50 billion, a 5.4 percent increase from FY10.
  • Restaurant Growth: Darden opened almost 100 new restaurants in FY12, bringing the total number of restaurants to 1,993 by the end of the fiscal year. Darden estimates that it will open 80 to 100 new restaurants each year by FY16, adding almost 50,000 net new jobs in the next five years.
  • Community Investment: Each time Darden opens a new restaurant the company is making a 30-year investment in a community. Each of Darden’s restaurants requires an approximately $3.5 million capital investment to build and supports approximately 200 construction jobs. And once the restaurant is operational, it sustains an average of 100 permanent jobs.
  • Growth Creates Opportunities: Jobs at Darden are an opportunity for employees to excel. The average hourly wage for a server at Darden’s restaurant brands is approximately twice the national minimum wage of $7.25, while the average hourly wage for a busser, an entry-level job, is more than $4 higher than the national minimum wage. In addition, Darden spent more than $3 billion on products from 2,000 suppliers in 35 different countries. And nearly 10 percent of those purchasing expenditures were with minority- and women-owned suppliers.
  1. Strategic Partnerships:
  • Approach: The common theme among all of Darden’s sustainability efforts is collaboration through strategic partnerships to meaningfully identify and reach systemic solutions. Working collaboratively and with a genuine commitment to find collective solutions helps Darden to share its experience and perspective – and to learn from the experience and perspective of others. This philosophy guides Darden’s stakeholder relations from how the company works with its suppliers to help them improve their sustainability practices to how Darden engages with policy makers and non-governmental organizations. Darden is committed to participating and leading collaborative efforts to address the pressing sustainability challenges facing our company and our world.
  • Partnership for a Healthier America: In FY12, Darden announced a formal alliance with the Partnership for a Healthier America. Darden made the most comprehensive health and wellness commitments of a restaurant company to date, pledging to reduce our overall calorie and sodium footprint by 10 percent by 2016 and by 20 percent by 2021, and to enhance the nutrition credentials of our children’s menus.
  • Rebuilding Troubled Fisheries: Darden announced a three-year commitment to rebuilding troubled fisheries through targeted Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) in FY12. The commitment is part of Darden’s membership in the Clinton Global Initiative. The initial FIP was launched in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, in conjunction with Publix Super Markets and Sustainable Fisheries Partnership.
  • Solar Energy: In FY12, Darden’s Restaurant Support Center began drawing 15 to 20 percent of its annual power usage from solar panels mounted on the parking garage and portions of the roof. This initiative, in partnership with Progress Energy, demonstrates the power of collaboration to reduce environmental impacts and take advantage of an abundant renewable resource in Florida – the sun.
  • Research & Collaboration: Darden is a member of a wide range of associations and groups that address various aspects of supply chain sustainability such as Global Aquaculture Alliance, Food Safety Leadership Council, and Business for Social Responsibility, just to name a few. Darden has partnered with the New England Aquarium for over a decade to provide up-to-date environmental, conservation and scientific data regarding wild-capture fish and aquaculture species for its Seafood Sustainability Dashboard. Darden is also a founding member of The Sustainability Consortium.
  1. Community Investments:
  • Approach: Darden strives to make community investments that will have a positive and enduring impact through philanthropic and volunteer support. Through the Darden Restaurants, Inc. Foundation, the company provides volunteerism and charitable giving to support postsecondary education, preservation of natural resources and good neighbor grants. Darden’s total community investments, since 1995, total approximately $60 million.
  • Philanthropic: In FY11, Darden donated nearly 10 million pounds of food through the Darden Harvest program and in FY12, Darden surpassed 56 million pounds of food donated since the program began in 2004. Darden also supports Habitat for Humanity through furniture donations to its ReStore outlets, the American Red Cross Annual Disaster Giving Program and local food banks. In addition, Darden supports organizations whose missions are committed to the preservation of natural resources, such as the Everglades Foundation and Audubon of Florida.
  • Community Grants: The Darden Foundation was built on a rich heritage of being of service to others – a concept that began 70 years ago with founder, Bill Darden. This initiative is intended to help support nonprofit organizations in the hundreds of communities Darden and its restaurant brands serve. In its inaugural year, every Darden restaurant was empowered to help award a $1,000 grant to a local nonprofit organization, resulting in more than $1.7 million in grants to exceptional nonprofits across the U.S. and Canada.
  • Education: Darden’s education initiatives, including the company’s signature platform, Recipe for Success™, support organizations that positively impact the educational prospects of underserved youth, ages 14 to 18, by providing them with access to the information and tools to pursue their dreams of higher education. In 2011, Darden partnered with UNCF and College Summit through the Darden Recipe for Success™ Scholarship program to provide 60 students in Washington, D.C., New York and Los Angeles with renewable 4- and 5-year scholarships.

KEYWORDS: sustainability savings, restaurant community grant, solar panel, fishery improvement projects, Global Aquaculture Alliance, darden foundation

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