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Our executive leadership team set three, very clear values at the onset of the pandemic. First, do everything we can to keep our teammates and our customers safe. Second, keep our shelves stocked. Third, never stop supporting our local communities and charitable partners. We’re incredibly proud of how our 134,000 teammates, operating as an essential service, continued to serve local communities across Canada.
Protecting Our Teammates and Our Customers
We’ve taken many steps to keep everyone safe, including being the first major retailer to install plexiglass shields in our stores across the country, adding extra frontline resources to frequently clean common areas, installing clear in-store signage on physical distancing and safe movement, and introducing Seniors Shopping Hours so the most vulnerable among us could shop with greater support and reassurance.
From the earliest days of the pandemic, our teams have been working with thousands of suppliers to meet the needs of Canadians. We increased our inventory orders to meet customer demand and worked with local Canadian, American and even restaurant suppliers to refill our shelves at times when our traditional supply chains were being challenged. For example, to address a shortage of hand sanitizer early in the pandemic, we partnered with 30 local beer and cider distilleries who shifted their production to make hand sanitizer. We’ve also been upfront about COVID-19 cases and exposure risks in our stores, publishing information regularly on our website. And, through our national pharmacy network, our pharmacy teams have been on the front lines of the most important Canadian vaccination programs in modern times.
Protecting and Recognizing Our Teams
At the outset of the pandemic, we introduced elevated health and safety protocols for our teammates across Canada and launched rapid-testing programs to speed up our ability to detect and isolate potential cases on our teams—which also helped to protect our customers, communities and business partners. Knowing that these have been tough times, we increased our benefits coverage for teammates to access mental health professionals and shared frequent mental health resources through several channels including a dedicated external website for our frontline teammates. To recognize all the ways our people have stepped up during COVID-19, we also introduced Hero Pay and lockdown bonuses during government-mandated lockdowns that closed all non-essential retail.
Taking Care of Our Communities
Giving back to our communities is always part of how we do business—and it’s never more important than when times are tough. In response to COVID-19 we created the Community Action Fund to support communities from coast to coast. Through this fund, we’ve been working directly with food banks, community organizations, provincial bodies and municipalities across the country to feed Canadian families. Our tailored support to food banks and meal programs includes financial support, donated gift cards, thousands of prepackaged hampers and cases of pantry essentials.
In fiscal year 2021, we donated more than $1.3 million through our Community Action Fund to support 145 community organizations on the frontlines of emergency food relief. We’ve been innovative in our approach, finding distinct ways to foster support in our different regions. For example, our Safeway team worked with Canadian singer Brett Kissel to host socially distanced drive-in concerts to help raise more than $70,000 for Food Banks Alberta. And in Nova Scotia, we donated $100,000 worth of gift cards to VON to help support seniors and people living with disabilities. We’ve been inspired by the strong support for our Community Action Fund which is now ongoing to support our local communities and we will continue to operate the fund even once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.