Sophie trained as an agronomics engineer and began her career on a number of rural development projects in South Africa, Ecuador and Brazil. She put her expertise to good use working out in the field alongside local farmers with organisations such as the Institute for Development Research. "When I returned to France, I wanted to keep working in this field. I found out that Carrefour was setting up its foundation. So I sent an unsolicited application because the job was exactly what I wanted". Two people were hired to set up the foundation – one of whom was Sophie, since her field knowledge was precisely what Carrefour was looking for. Having started off as deputy in 2001, she took over as director in 2005.
When it was first set up, the foundation was involved in two key areas: disaster response providing emergency humanitarian aid on the one hand, food aid on the other. Since June 2017, its responsibilities have been expanded to include a third area: preserving biodiversity. "In emergency situations, the Carrefour Group mobilises local teams to work alongside civil security services. They identify needs and enlist the company's volunteers so they can help various associations. They also provide logistics resources and equipments". This way, the teams on site can get basic essentials directly to the affected people. The foundation coordinates and finances the emergency aid. The second area involves professional integration, food aid and searching for solutions to nutritional problems. The foundation provides field teams with support in countries in which Carrefour operates. Local teams are involved in numerous skills and sponsorship initiatives, in addition to distributing more than 100 million meals every year. "We also provide our partners with support in structurally organising themselves, formulating their needs and training their personnel", adds Sophie.
Sophie tells us about the team's various roles in the foundation: "There are three of us. One person overseeing projects in France, another for international projects and then me, coordinating it all". Although the team is very small, the foundation is fully-committed to the Group. This commitment can be seen in Sichuan (China), for example, where it has helped Carrefour's teams on site to support small-scale pepper farmers so that their sector can become more professional and consolidated. Carrefour first purchased the pepper as a way of guaranteeing an income for the farmers. Then its local teams helped them to set up a cooperative which the farmers now use to negotiate their prices directly with various distributors, including Carrefour. Sophie emphasises that it is a win-win arrangement: "work upstream on production, structuring the project and then securing prices with the group's local entities… We were there at each stage of this project, right up until it was able to stand on its own two feet".