As part of a move to enhance and protect Kroger’s reputation, the retail giant launched “Zero Hunger | Zero Waste“, a social impact plan to end hunger in Kroger’s host communities and eliminate waste across the company by 2025.
Kroger’s Group Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Jessica Adelman, explains the initiative’s necessity in navigating today’s divisive sociopolitical climate, where the American public’s trust in institutions, especially in government and media, has taken a nosedive. A 2017 Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll showed that nearly two-thirds of Americans say the mainstream press is full of fake news. And the latest Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that the average trust in institutions dropped nine points among the general population, the steepest decline ever measured in the survey.
Besides the tumultuous political landscape, there are other hidden forces at play, Adelman says, citing “MicroTrends Squared” by Mark Penn, Managing Partner of The Stagwell Group. One of Penn’s microtrends is the downside of the prevalence of choice in society today. Overwhelmed with the plethora of options—from what we buy to where we buy it—, consumers are racing to routines and becoming creatures of habit. Once people identify the choices they like they stick with them, “thereby further balkanizing America and Americans,” Adelman says.
The void in moral leadership, Adelman points out, has left Americans looking to corporations to fill the vacuum. Her thesis is consistent with findings from The Harris Poll’s latest Reputation Quotient leadership ranking which showed CEO reputations to be on the rebound as corporate leaders are taking more active social positions. 32% of Americans say CEOs have a “very good reputation,” an increase from 25% in 2017. Inversely, 43% of Americans believe CEOs have a “very bad reputation,” a 7% drop from last year.
Bigger companies, therefore, are faced with the challenge of catering to employees, stakeholders and consumers with diverse views. Adelman proposes three ways that communications and PR professionals can help business leaders navigate this environment.
- Anchor to purpose: Define and share an authentic purpose, vision and values.
2. Be ready: Have a response strategy in place for potential PR disasters in order to act quickly and decisively when it matters.
3. Be bold: Lead on relevant topics that align with your business and drive social good.
Zero Hunger | Zero Waste is Kroger’s bold and ambitious step, Adelman says, by taking on a nonpartisan issue that impacts community members regardless of their political views. The initiative could be well received by consumers, many of whom trust the Kroger brand. In the Harris Poll’s Reputation Quotient survey, consumers recognized Kroger for its “good reputation”, ranking the grocery chain #18 out of the 100 most visible companies in America.
“Zero Hunger| Zero Waste connects to Kroger’s purpose: to Feed the Human Spirit,” Adelman says.
“It is also authentic to who we are as a company. For Kroger, 135 years in the grocery business have taught us a few things about people and about food. We know that meals matter. Families that share meals together have children who do better in all aspects of their lives. And yet there is a fundamental absurdity in the U.S. food system – 40% of the food produced is thrown away, yet 1 in 8 Americans struggle with hunger. In fact, 1 in 6 children go hungry every day.
“Across our family of companies, we have a rich heritage of providing the food and nourishment people need to live their best lives. As ‘America’s grocer’, we believe we have to do something to address this absurdity. More importantly, we believe we can do something, perhaps better than anyone. We have the physical assets, technology and resources to get it done, plus nearly half a million passionate employees.”
Read Adelman’s full essay on the International Public Relations Association’s blog.