2022 Star Women in Grocery winner Eli Browne (Q&A)
Director of Corporate Sustainability
How did you get into the grocery business?
Out of university, I was hired by a foodservice company. I worked there for nearly 12 years and then I joined Sobeys. So, food has been the main event for me throughout my career.
What are you most proud of in your career?
In sustainability, I've learned you need to be very tenacious. You don't always get to yes right away. So, to date, I would say that there's one program with my previous company that was basically 10 years in the making. It took about 10 years to get the approval and to get the program up and running. And it had to do with sourcing from small- and medium-sized, local vendors and farmers. The company that I worked for was a large foodservice company and it sourced through large contracts, so this program was against the grain in terms of how they did things. I was extremely happy the day that it launched. Currently, we're working a lot on climate change in the grocery retail industry, specifically to Sobeys. I can’t talk about it (it’s not public, yet), but I’m quite proud of that work.
What keeps you passionate about the work you do?
Growing up, I always had a love of animals and nature and in grade five, going way back, we did a project on whales and that sparked an interest in marine sea life. And I took that all the way to university - following that childhood passion for marine wildlife to obtain my first degree, which was in marine and freshwater biology. So [the passion] comes from a childhood love of nature. And currently, what keeps me passionate is the human impact that we have with the work that we're doing. So, one thing I can point to is our food rescue program, which we launched over the last year [in partnership with Second Harvest] where we are donating surplus food from our stores. There's a real human impact to that. It’s positively impacting people who are experiencing food insecurity. That's the kind of stuff I'm really motivated by these days.
What role has mentorship played in your career?
I've enjoyed a lot of informal mentorship opportunities. I’ve had one formal mentorship in my career to date. Unfortunately, it didn't last too long because that person ended up leaving the company (this was with my previous company). But I've learned a lot informally, certainly from the people I've reported in to and I've learned a tremendous amount from the senior leaders I work with. So, in my experience the informal mentorships have been very impactful in my career development.
How do you like to spend your time when you’re not working?
I’ve got two energetic young boys—a six year old and a four year old—and they definitely keep me busy outside of work. When we can, we love to travel—although we don’t do this as much as we would like to. I also love to spend time with family and friends, and I love trying new foods from different parts of the world. And when I can, getting out in nature.
Click herefor the full list of 2022 Star Women in Grocery award winners.