Cincinnati, US-based grocery chain Kroger Corporation - the nation's largest supermarket operator - is introducing a layered plan to address diversity and inclusion both in its own stores, as well as in the markets they service. Kroger made $122.3B USD in 2019 revenue and ended 2019 with 453,000 employees. Due to the pandemic, by May of this year that number had grown to 560,000.
Their Framework for Action: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiative focuses on: covering 10 short- and long-term efforts:
“As America’s grocer, Kroger is driven to bring Americans together as an employer, grocery provider and community partner, representing ‘Our Purpose to Feed the Human Spirit,’” Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen wrote in a statement. “Over the last several months, we’ve listened closely to our half a million associates and countless communities across the nation. It’s never been clearer that our collective energy is necessary to achieve true and lasting equality.
“We have taken a very thoughtful and purposeful approach to develop what we believe are the right actions to substantially and positively impact our culture and our country, creating real change now and into the future,” added McMullen. “We are approaching this effort with humility, knowing we can't do it alone and don't and won't have all the answers. Our new Framework for Action: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion plan reflects our desire to redefine, deepen, and advance our commitment, mobilizing our people, passion, scale and resources.”
Earlier this year, the Kroger African American Associate Resource Group developed the educational From Awareness to Advocacy allyship guide to spur reflective thoughts, hard conversations and bold actions. The guide features recommended books, podcasts, movies, documentaries and advocacy groups and has been shared widely and read by Kroger leaders and associates as well as published for customers and other external partners and stakeholders to view.
The company has created a greater focus on recruiting from Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) and the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities (HACU) in an attempt to create a more diverse talent pool to promote from. Kroger said that it will focus on campus immersion activities and resources to help students transition from college life to the workplace. Their Feed Your Future programs include a tuition reimbursement benefit of up to $3,500 annually ($21,000 over the course of employment) toward continuing education.
Kroger, too, said it aims to establish a two-way mentorship and advocacy program between high-potential diverse talent and senior leaders. That will include a redesign of the mentorship program for more associates to have access to leaders across the organization, supporting the professional development of diverse talent and fostering collaboration, visibility and advancement, the retailer said.
Kroger aims to form a DE&I Advisory Council to advance long-term diversity, equity and inclusion commitments. The committee will report to senior leadership and be led by Monica Garnes, retail division president. The council also will partner with senior leaders and longstanding associate resource and advocacy groups — representing Black, Latinx, Asian, LGBTQ, and physically and intellectually disabled associates, plus veterans, women, parents, and Millennials — to spur organizational change.
“I’m greatly inspired by Kroger's renewed focus on diversity and inclusion,” commented Monica Garnes, retail division president. “Our Framework for Action: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion plan will guide us to be better tomorrow than we are today, and I am committed to using my position and platform to accelerate change across our business and culture.”
The company has been recognized multiple times for its attention to diversity and inclusion efforts. The Human Rights Campaign is a fan, awarding them a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2020 Corporate Equality Index, in recognition of the company's commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion and equality.
This year, Kroger plans to provide unconscious bias training to every leader and DE&I training for every associate by May 2021. The company said it’s preparing a more comprehensive DE&I training program for its nearly 500,000 associates, and it expects to introduce the program next spring.
“Kroger welcomes associates from every race, culture and ability, and we remain deeply focused on creating a more equitable workplace where every associate is empowered and supported and feels valued and a sense of belonging,” stated Tim Massa, senior vice president and chief people officer at Kroger. “And while diversity and inclusion have been longstanding Kroger values, this year has certainly served as an awakening. As an organization driven by purpose, we know we not only must continue to listen to our associates, but we must act. When we see our associates, customers and neighbors affected by systemic racism, discrimination and injustice, we are called to speak out and act in accordance with ‘Our Values: Honesty & Integrity, Diversity & Inclusion and Safety & Respect.’
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