Raising the bar on inclusion efforts

David Orgel
Principal, David Orgel Consulting

The nation’s intense focus on equity and racial issues was one of the biggest story lines of 2020.

The impact has been dramatic across society — including in the business world. 

Retailers in the food and drug industry unleashed a surge of new initiatives to make progress.

The upshot is that retailers have raised the bar. This industry now expects more of itself, and it will need to follow through on its new strategies.

In one of the most expansive efforts, Kroger unveiled its Framework for Action: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, featuring 10 immediate action steps. These include moves to create a more inclusive culture, develop diverse talent and advance equitable communities. 

Kroger is far from the only retailer stepping out with notable commitments. Let’s take a quick tour of the new landscape. 

Major Dollar Investments 
Retailers unveiled large dollar commitments to advance equity.

Target pledged $1 million to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s National Racial Equity Initiative, which focuses on education, economic opportunity and law enforcement. 

CVS Health said it will invest in 116 units of affordable housing and expand a no-cost health screening program to Orlando, Fla. — part of a commitment of nearly $600 million over five years to address racial inequity and social determinants of health in Black communities.

Meanwhile, The Giant Co. began to identify local recipient organizations for $500,000 in grants dedicated to fostering racial equality and furthering diversity and inclusion. 

New Leadership Moves 
A number of retailers announced new internal policies and executive changes to advance diversity. 

Amazon made a commitment to raise the representation of senior Black leaders in the organization by doubling the share both in 2020 and 2021. 

Rite Aid, meanwhile, named Texanna Reeves its vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion. Reeves will establish and lead an enterprise cross-functional diversity council to embed best practices into its talent recruitment, retention and development efforts.

Supplier Diversity Efforts 
Retailers are striving to improve diversity within their supplier bases. Kroger’s wide ranging new initiative aims to increase spending with diverse suppliers from $3.4 billion to $10 billion by 2030. 

Schnuck Markets, meanwhile, unveiled a supplier diversity program focused on making its supplier ranks more reflective of its local communities. Schnucks is partnering with ECRM and RangeMe to help identify and engage with diverse suppliers. 

New Ways of Conversing
The growing focus on diversity and inclusion has featured a number of creative industry forums that addressed these issues — held virtually in this pandemic environment. 

DSN and Mack Elevation conducted a panel on “the importance of creating and protecting inclusive, culturally competent and empathetic organizations.” The forum included speakers from Target, Wakefern and Walgreens Boots Alliance.

FMI, the Food Industry Association, is joining forces with the Center for Food Integrity to produce a series of “digital dialogues” on the issues of racial justice, inclusion and diversity.

Next Steps for Progress
All the efforts mentioned — and others not covered here — reflect a growing outpouring of concern about diversity and inclusion. Retailers have raised the bar and it’s more difficult now to sit on the sidelines. 

However, it will be important for organizations to ensure their initiatives are making a difference — or to fine-tune them for better results. Measurement, follow-through and communication are key because consumers and other stakeholders will be watching. They will insist on authentic actions that help drive change. 

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