Kroger announced yesterday what it is calling a Framework for Action: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion plan, which it says features "both immediate and longer-term steps developed in collaboration with associates and leaders to accelerate and promote greater change in the workplace and in the communities the organization serves … Kroger's plan features five focus areas: Create More Inclusive Culture, Develop Diverse Talent, Advance Diverse Partnerships, Advance Equitable Communities, and Deeply Listen and Report Progress."
Rodney McMullen , Kroger's chairman and CEO, said in a prepared 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. We are approaching this effort with humility, knowing we can't do it alone and don't and won't have all the answers."
There are 10 elements to the Framework. Here's a summary:
• "Create a DE&I Advisory Council to advance our long-term DE&I commitments, reporting to senior leadership … featuring associates from across its family of companies and headed by Monica Garnes , retail division president. The Council aligns with the organization's transformation and innovation focus, and it will partner with senior leaders and longstanding 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 DE&I training for every associate by May 2021 … Kroger is committed to continuing to provide foundational and advanced DE&I training to every leader, using custom curriculum developed by DE&I experts."
• "Improve diverse talent recruiting by partnering with Historically Black Colleges & Universities, Hispanic Association Colleges & Universities, and community colleges … including Clark Atlanta University , Florida A&M University , Howard University , Kentucky State University , Morehouse College , North Carolina A&T State University , Spelman College and Tennessee State University , as well as Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities (HACU), including Dalton State College and the University of Texas A&M System. Through the program, Kroger is focusing on campus immersion activities and providing resources to help students transition from collegiate life to the workplace. Kroger is also uplifting HBCU students by supporting on-campus food pantries at several schools across the country."
• "Establish two-way mentorship and advocacy program between high-potential diverse talent and senior leaders … 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."
• "Increase spend with diverse suppliers from $3.4 billion to $10 billion by 2030.
Kroger has a longstanding 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."
• Ensure our media partners align with Our Values and that we reach diverse customers through our marketing spend, partners and strategy … Kroger is redefining how it approaches advertising creative and campaigns as well as partners, including media and influencers, to better reflect its associates and customers."
• "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."
• "Encourage associates to vote and provide voter registration and ballot applications in stores … Kroger is creating a culture of civic engagement by inspiring the nearly 500,000 associates across its organization to vote in the upcoming elections and providing non-partisan resources and agreed-to flexible work schedules so that every associate can prioritize voting. Kroger 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."
• "Engage external stakeholders to seek perspective and co-create more just and equitable communities … Over the last 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."
• "Provide associates with platforms to continue sharing their stories and feedback with our 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."
- KC's View:
This isn't just a story, and it isn't just an announcement. It strikes me as a serious realization by a major American company that business-as-usual no longer can be allowed to stand, and that for a company to be exceptional, it has to do more and invest more to identify and nurture exceptional people from a wide variety of backgrounds and with diverse perspectives and experiences.
Kroger is dealing with reality - that there is systemic prejudice in this country that won't go away by just wishing it were so or by saying it doesn't exist.
There are some who think that this isn't important. There are some who think that it is inappropriate or somehow un-American to do things like Unconscious Bias Training … but Kroger clearly has come to the opposite conclusion - that confronting our flaws and trying to address our weaknesses and to become "more perfect" is the exact definition of being American.
Kroger doesn't need my approval. But the leadership there certainly has it, because this is a critical part, in my view, of being as 21st century company.