Making Business 'Truly Efficient and Truly Humane': The Case of Grupo Bimbo

From Inside USD -- Many things go into starting and sustaining any business. For Roberto Servitje Sendra, who followed his father into the bakery business and, in 1945, founded and built what today is the largest bakery company in the world, Grupo Bimbo, knows it takes more than the thousands of popular food products it sells to achieve results.

“We want to be a company with a soul,” said Servitje Sendra to the audience gathered at the Warren Auditorium in USD’s Mother Rosalie Hill Hall for his talk on Thursday. “Just like families, schools and churches play a strong role … companies also play a big role in shaping people.”

Central to Sendra’s business plan, and in a nod to strong Catholic values, Grupo Bimbo’s company-wide mindset is a belief that people, now more than 155,000 employees, be treated with respect and encouraged to be active participants in the company and its successes.

Grupo Bimbo, whose diverse products ranging from breads, cakes, cookies, pastries, tortillas, chocolate and confections and brands such as Thomas, Sara Lee, Oroweat, Entenmann’s, Boboli, Tia Rosa and can proudly state that it hasn’t had a labor strike in 67 years.

“People are first,” said Servitje Sendra, chairman of the board of directors for Grupo Bimbo, which currently has 153 plants and two trading companies strategically located in 19 countries, across three continents. It is a leader in Mexico, Latin America and the United States.

He told stories of employee dedication and appreciation because of their positive experiences. He recalled when one man, upon retiring after 40 years, thanked him for opportunities he’d had and how much it meant to him because it provided well for him and his family. “No,” Sendra stated, “It is I who should thank you.”

Another poignant reflection was a family’s request for a company uniform for a longtime employee who’d passed away. His wish was to be buried wearing his work uniform. To Servitje Sendra, a business’ social awareness is paramount to any business plan.

He also spoke of Grupo Bimbo’s concentrated efforts as a sustainability business leader. He touched on the use of more efficient equipment, windmill energy, a reusable water program and other projects that reduce the company’s carbon footprint and keep business costs down.

Sendra’s talk was part of a full day visit to USD. He met top administrators, faculty, staff and student leaders, received a campus tour, and a visit to one of Economics Professor Stephen Conroy’s classes. The visit was co-sponsored by Ahlers Center for International Business, the Center for Peace and Commerce, the Trans-Border Institute, the Latin American Studies Program, the Office of the Provost, the International Constituent Relations and Comite Mexico.

— Ryan T. Blystone

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Erin Kellaway