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Grocery leaders share how they’re making progress on DE&I

How Canada’s grocery leaders are moving the needle on diversity, equity and inclusion
the big question june/july
Left to right: Neil Kudrinko, Digs Dorfman, Erin Duggan, Brad Fletcher and Gaétane Wagner

Neil Kudrinko, president, Kudrinko’s: "Companies talk about DE&I and point to their policies. But what's more important than just policies, is how companies affirm and celebrate the diversity within their company or community. Have you reviewed your employee programs to make sure they aren't still reflecting outdated views of identity? Are we simply saying anyone is welcome to apply for a job, or are we willing to rethink how we organize the work to accommodate a more diverse set of candidates? And are we just putting our logos on products or in stores, or are we showing up as partners in those communities. Those are things we’ve been tackling as we strive to become a more affirming company.”

Digs Dorfman, CEO, The Sweet Potato: “We have a pretty diverse team of people at The Sweet Potato and have always thought of ourselves as progressive employers, but last year we realized we didn’t have formal policies around diversity or inclusion. We’ve since worked with a diversity and inclusion expert from an organization called Harbingers to try and figure out what we’re doing right, and what we could do better. We started by doing an extensive culture survey of our existing team. Some of the things we learned were really surprising to us, and we’re now in the process of using that information to try and draft more effective policies and practices moving forward.”

Erin Duggan, vice-president of talent, Loblaw Companies Limited: “Our goal is to be Canada’s most diverse employer. To meet this objective, we focus on education, representation and allyship across our company. Our inclusion council, together with our 300-plus volunteers, create a culture of inclusion across genders, race/ethnicities, cultures and abilities through various equity-based initiatives. Corporately, we are on track or have already exceeded all our representation goals. Our inclusivity training for 221,000-plus employees is among the country’s largest. And, the Shoppers Foundation for Women’s Health will contribute $50 million by 2026, with a focus on physical and mental health.”

Brad Fletcher, president, The Village Grocer: “While specific human resources training and open discussions aimed at building awareness around diversity and inclusion in our workplace have occurred, we are most proud of the fact that our team of more than 140 ‘Villagers’ consists of many different genders, races, nationalities and sexual orientations. This diversity allows us to explore different perspectives, approaches and views to our operation but, most importantly, it allows us to better relate to the many customers we meet and interact with every day.”

Gaétane Wagner, chief human resources officer, Saputo: “To help unleash the full potential of our team and meet their growing needs and interests, Saputo’s approach is to embed DE&I principles in all programs and processes impacting the employee life cycle. In recent years, we implemented initiatives to promote DE&I, including establishing a global DE&I council, unconscious bias training, expanded parental leave benefits, a development program for women and training on inclusive recruitment practices. Representation of women at senior levels went up 9% over the past few years and we have strategies in place to further increase representation in the coming years.”

This article first appeared in Canadian Grocer’s June/July 2023 issue.

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