As the biggest U.S. supermarket operator and one of the nation’s largest companies, The Kroger Co. is offering up its coronavirus response as a blueprint for other businesses as they ponder reopening plans.
Kroger late yesterday released “Sharing What We've Learned: A Blueprint for Businesses,” the first installment of a series of recommendations for retailers, restaurants and foodservice companies, manufacturers, logistics and distribution centers, and other industries looking at how to establish safe work environments amid the lingering risk of COVID-19.
Inside the 17-page blueprint are actions and learnings that Kroger has applied in the past six weeks to protect employees, customers and the communities it serves. The recommendations also reflect what Kroger has learned via regular interaction with business leaders in other nations, including Italy, Singapore and China — all of which, the company noted, were ahead of the United States in terms of the pandemic cycling through their countries.
“With nearly 2,800 grocery stores, 35 manufacturing plants, 44 distribution centers and 460,000 associates across the country, Kroger has learned and continues to learn a lot while keeping our stores and supply chain open and serving America during the pandemic,” Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen said in a statement. “As an essential business, we have led with our purpose to ‘Feed the Human Spirit’ and have taken extensive measures across our footprint to safeguard our associates, customers and supply chain. We are sharing what we’ve learned to help businesses begin to reopen safely and in sync with their respective state plans.”
Kroger said the blueprint emerged following inquiries late last week by several governors and business organizations, which asked the company to help their state’s businesses to reopen safely. In 36 hours, Kroger developed a new platform, KrogerBlueprint.com, to provide immediate assistance to states and businesses. The plan will be updated regularly with new learnings, the company said.
“We decided from the onset of this crisis that transparency, agility and responsiveness would be our guiding principles,” according to McMullen, “and we are now sharing what we’ve learned as an extension of our values.”
Kroger’s blueprint includes COVID-19 safety recommendations for retail, manufacturing, distribution center/supply chain, foodservice/restaurant and office environments, but the company said many of the processes can be adapted by any business sector. Available now is a downloadable PDF of the blueprint for the retail sector, along with in-store creative assets such as signs and audio files to encourage social distancing; direct customer traffic; and explain coronavirus-related safety, promotional and product return policies. Kroger said will continue to update the blueprint with more recommendations, insights, best practices, tools and templates for other industries.
“It’s critical for businesses to let their values guide their actions and to develop protocols and procedures in advance of re-entering the marketplace to safely reopen, protecting customers and employees and flattening the curve,” McMullen noted. “We recognize that not all businesses are the same. What worked for us may not work for some companies. And while there is no ‘one thing’ that makes all the difference, taking a comprehensive, thoughtful approach to safety will lead to better outcomes.”
For example, in the blueprint installment for retail operations, Kroger explains ways to educate employees and customers on healthy habits, promote physical distancing, augment cleaning procedures, modify store hours and encourage the use of personal protective equipment. The company, too, covers ways to monitor and support employee health, such as through emergency sick leave and temperature/health checks, and to help prepare workers for difficult situations.
“We share our learnings with the same spirit that many business leaders from around the world have generously shared their experiences with our company, which helped us anticipate the steps we needed to take to provide a safe environment for our associates and customers,” added McMullen. “We know that we don’t — and we won’t — have all the answers; no one business or organization will. It will take all of us sharing openly the ingenuity that has always been the heart of American free enterprise to get through this together, allowing America to come out stronger.”
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