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2023 Impact Award winners: Diversity, equity & inclusion

These five businesses are making strides toward diversity, equity & inclusion

For its third year, the Canadian Grocer Impact Awards celebrates Canadian grocery retail and CPG businesses that are going above and beyond to make the world a better place

We recognized 40 winners making a positive impact in the areas of sustainability; supporting employees; diversity, equity & inclusion; and community service

Five companies won in the category of diversity, equity & inclusion. Here’s why:

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bimbo canada
Bimbo Canada is working to build cultural understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples in Canada

Bimbo Canada

When the discovery of mass, unmarked graves at a former residential school in British Columbia hit the news in May 2021, Bimbo Canada associates made it clear the company needed to learn more about the issue as part of its commitment to reconciliation. 

Bimbo chose to work with the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund (DWF), which aims to build understanding, raise awareness and create a path toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples in Canada

In partnership with DWF, the company launched a five-year commitment in 2022 to educate and spread awareness. Actions last year included online training, virtual tours of the first residential school in Canada and guest speakers at events through the year. The company contributed more than $54,000 in 2022 to Indigenous organizations and completed 39 reconciliACTIONs (as DWF calls them). This year, activities have included educational sponsorship for two Indigenous youth and a TED Talk-style education session on the residential school system.

“To change the future, we must first acknowledge our past,” says Teresa Schoonings, senior director, sustainability at Bimbo Canada. “Reconciliation is a responsibility of all Canadians and Bimbo Canada is proud to take action towards building a brighter future through cultural understanding, awareness and connections between all people in Canada.”

Federated Co-operatives Limited

In 2022, Federated Co-op launched a co-branded line of bison products in collaboration with Wanuskewin Heritage Park, a traditional gathering place for all Northern Plains Indigenous Nations for more than 6,400 years.

The Co-op Gold private-label bison products include jerky, meat sticks, smokies and burgers, from recipes developed at Wanuskewin and brought to life by the Co-op team. The packaging includes artwork by Linus Woods, an Ojibway-Dakota artist from the Long Plain First Nation in Southern Manitoba. For Co-op, the bison initiative is an opportunity to appreciate Indigenous culture, while being committed to Truth and Reconciliation and understanding Indigenous history.

“Bison is so important in the Indigenous culture, so it was clear from the beginning that it would be the backbone of our product line,” says Federated Co-op’s store brands manager Sav Bellissimo. “Working with Wanuskewin to create, promote and distribute these items across Western Canada and supporting the cultural programming at the park through a portion of the proceeds is a fantastic collaboration.” The products can be purchased at Co-op Food stores across Western Canada, with a portion of proceeds going to support cultural education programs at Wanuskewin.

JF in motion campaign
The JF in Motion campaign from Loblaw/Joe Fresh addresses the lack of inclusivity in the apparel industry by featuring different body types and abilities

 Loblaw/Joe Fresh

 The apparel industry has historically struggled with a lack of inclusivity. The Joe Fresh brand set out to help change that with its spring adult activewear campaign, JF in Motion, that embraced diversity while highlighting different body types and abilities. It featured products in an extended size range of XS to 3X and was built around messaging that all bodies are beautiful. Model and advocate Allison Lang, who uses a prosthetic leg, was cast as one of the campaign’s stars. 

The campaign exceeded expectations. Customers reposted and shared images from the campaign, including a young girl born without a hand posing in front of the in-store Lang campaign imagery. 

“At Joe Fresh, we’re always working to better represent our Canadian customer and create an environment that is inclusive,” says Meghan Lengyell, vice-president of marketing and communications at Joe Fresh. “With the JF in Motion campaign, we wanted to amplify our values around body positivity, representation, and accessibility in the activewear space – and some great Canadian talent really helped us tell that story.”

Mondelēz International

Mondelēz Canada is on a mission to nourish a culture of inclusivity. In 2020, the company took a significant step towards prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) within its organization with the formation of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Impact Team that, in turn, led to the development of the Employee Inclusion Groups (EIGs) program.

“Employee Inclusion Groups were launched in response to feedback from our employees on DE&I priorities,” says Noah Farber, director, corporate and government affairs. “We wanted to take action in an authentic, meaningful and impactful way, so our program reflected that.”

The EIGs organize inclusive events, providing learning, development and networking opportunities for employees. The groups also influence internal policies by collecting self-identification data on race and ethnicity to help measure Mondelēz’s progress in diversity and inclusion. Additionally, the EIGs work to affect positive change beyond Mondelēz, partnering with external organizations to support initiatives within the wider BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) community. 

“We attribute the program’s success to our engaged colleagues and leaders, as well as our commitment to listening and actioning change; however, we acknowledge that change takes time,” adds Farber. “While we’re thrilled with the success we’ve seen so far, we continue to look for ways to grow, evolve and improve the program moving forward.”

Walmart Canada

To accelerate the advancement of women within its workforce, in 2020, Walmart Canada launched the Women in Retail Rising Star Program. The year-long program focuses on empowerment, experience and exposure and is supported by functional sponsors and in-store mentors to accelerate the readiness of high-potential female talent to step up to the challenge of their next-level role within a year of joining the program. 

The program includes networking and development activities, leadership skill building, and total “box experience” (exposing candidates to all facets of leading the facility) and exposure to the “day in the life” of senior leaders.

“While women represent 53% of our total workforce, we have an organizational goal to reach gender parity across all functions and roles. Using data, we quickly understood the need to focus first on accelerating women into store manager roles,” says Jennifer Pierce, the retailer’s vice-president, talent management. “In year two, we broadened our question to be inclusive of accelerating female leaders to all internal functions and expanded the Rising Star Program to supply chain and finance. Moving into our third year, we are adding e-commerce and tech to the program.”

Canadian Grocer’s Impact Awards will be returning in 2024. Look out for our call for nominations in the New Year. 

Winners of the 2023 Impact Awards were first featured in Canadian Grocer’s August issue.  

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