Kroger Co. has announced ambitious plans to formalize a commitment to diversity and inclusion. The Framework for Action: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan, announced Oct. 26, features both immediate and longer-term steps that it said would accelerate and promote greater change in the workplace and in the communities the organization serves.
Developed in collaboration with associates and leaders, the plan contains five focus areas: create more inclusive culture, develop diverse talent, advance diverse partnerships, advance equitable communities, and deeply listen and report progress. In announcing the new plan, the Cincinnati-based retailer released 10 immediate actions it is taking. Those are:
- Create an advisory council to advance its long-term diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) commitments. The council will feature associates from Kroger’s family of companies and be headed by Monica Garnes, retail division president. It will partner with senior leaders and long-standing associate resource and advocacy groups, representing Black, Latinx, Asian, LGBTQ and physically and intellectually disabled associates as well as veterans, women, parents and millennials to drive organizational change.
- Provide unconscious bias training to every leader in 2020 and DEI training for every associate by May 2021. Using custom curriculum developed by DEI experts, Kroger is preparing a more comprehensive DEI training program for the nearly 500,000 associates across its organization.
- Improve diverse talent recruiting by partnering with Historically Black Colleges & Universities, Hispanic Association Colleges & Universities and community colleges. Through the Framework for Action: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion plan, Kroger is enhancing and expanding its recruitment partnerships, as well as focusing on campus immersion activities and providing resources to help students transition from collegiate life to the workplace.
- Establish two-way mentorship and advocacy program between high-potential diverse talent and senior leaders. As part of Kroger's commitment to developing talent, it is redesigning its mentorship program to create additional opportunities and channels for more associates to have access to leaders across the organization, supporting the professional development of diverse talent and increasing collaboration, visibility and advancement. The redesigned program will also provide leaders with more opportunities to listen, learn and act, further accelerating organizational change.
- Increase spend with diverse suppliers from $3.4 billion to $10 billion by 2030. Kroger has a long-standing supplier inclusion program, reflecting partnerships with Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) entrepreneurs, women- and veteran-owned brands and services, and businesses operated by the LGBTQ community, as well as business operators with disabilities. And as a member of the Billon Dollar Roundtable, Kroger will continue to partner with diverse businesses in innovative ways, including by investing in incubators and accelerators, expanding relationships with existing partners, hosting and participating in supplier summits, and through partnerships with leading organizations such as the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council and Women's Business Enterprise National Council.
- Ensure its media partners align with Kroger’s Our Values and that it reaches diverse customers through marketing spend, partners and strategy. Kroger said it is committed to reviewing its current portfolio of partners, expanding existing relationships and developing new partnerships with groups such as Blavity Inc. and Hispanicize. It will also continue to expand its network of BIPOC social influencers, focusing on content creators who write about food, recipes and health and wellness.
- Deploy funds to support impactful approaches to advance racial equity with community partners. In the aftermath of George Floyd's murder and continued racial unrest across the country, Kroger established The Kroger Co. Foundation's Racial Equity Fund with a mission to lift up communities of color by building sustainable partnerships that create more equitable, inclusive and stronger communities through an investment of $5 million.Earlier this month, the Racial Equity Fund launched its Build It Together grant challenge, in which 14 organizations were invited to submit a proposal focusing on their strategic actions and initiatives for advancing racial equality. The Kroger Co. Foundation will select up to three organizations that will each receive a $1 million grant.
- Encourage associates to vote and provide voter registration and ballot applications in-stores. Kroger is providing nonpartisan resources and agreed-to flexible work schedules so that its associates can prioritize voting. The retailer also engaged Secretary of State offices and election officials where it operates stores to offer its partnership in serving as a destination for vote-by-mail ballot applications. Currently, it is providing vote-by-mail ballot applications in store locations in Ohio and Michigan.
- Engage external stakeholders to seek perspective and co-create more just and equitable communities. Over the past several months, Kroger leaders have engaged in one-to-one conversations with both local and national community influencers and game-changers as well as organizers, policymakers, trade associations, small business owners and chambers of commerce. It will continue to work together with individuals and organizations to transform its culture and communities across America.
- Provide associates with platforms to continue sharing their stories and feedback with Kroger leaders. Since June, Kroger has hosted 30 virtual listening sessions, presenting a new interactive platform for associates and leaders to express both their personal and professional perspectives on current and past events and how the Kroger family of companies as an employer can create a more inclusive and equitable workplace. It will continue to create and provide opportunities for associates to share their ideas and feedback, including through town halls, listening sessions and surveys, as well as focus groups hosted by the organization's research and development and merchandising teams that will help develop new products and perfect flavor profiles and identify potential gaps in brand and product representation on shelves for purchase.
“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. We are approaching this effort with humility, knowing we can't do it alone and don't and won't have all the answers,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chairman and CEO, in a release. “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.”