A Safe Space For Those With Differences


Safeway, one of the largest food and drug retailers in North America, with 1,761 stores in the U.S. and Canada, is committed to inclusion and diversity among its employees. The chain has created a number of employee resource and network groups including a Women’s Network Group, Hispanic Leadership Network Group, Asian Network Group, Safeway African American Leadership Network Group and GALA (Gay and Lesbian Alliance) to support growth and leadership throughout is stores.

Safeway is also committed to the training and support of people with disabilities through their ITS company. In 2007, the company was honored by the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) for the work it is doing in terms of hiring people with disabilities. Accepting that honor, Safeway’s chairman, president and CEO, Steve Burd, stated at the ceremony, “We appreciate the recognition and are proud of our longstanding partnership with the vocational rehabilitation agencies, which continue to be a valuable hiring resource. These are among our most productive employees, and we intend to build on this important program as a way of raising awareness and supporting people with disabilities.”

Manager Gwen Wilson and Potomac, MD Safeway staff.

For the Ruderman Best in Business award nominations, one customer who shops at the Safeway in Potomac, MD, was moved by the inclusion that she sees at the store and wrote in her nomination, “Wendy, the woman who bags groceries at Safeway, is obviously mentally challenged, but she never fails to be helpful and courteous to those with whom she comes into contact. I believe her attitude could only come from working in a place that values her as a team member and as a person.”

Store director Gwen Wilson confirms that the environment in her store is one of support and encouragement among all the employees. “We have an employee on our team who sometimes gets frustrated if she thinks she can’t get a job done. Her co-workers are very supportive and work with her to ensure she can accomplish her tasks,” Wilson explains. “She regularly says that her managers and fellow employees are so nice because they always help her.”

Safeway is not only committed to hiring people with disabilities, but the chain of stores also supports disability organizations like Special Olympics and Easter Seals.

Special Olympics is part of the Safeway Foundation’s annual customer fundraising campaign in which the store dedicates a month each year to raising funds and awareness to help people with disabilities. In 2008 the Safeway Foundation designated Special Olympics as a beneficiary of its successful campaign. While the hallmark of the campaign is a $1 donation at checkout, the company also uses in-store broadcasts and video messages to customers and employees to share information about breakthroughs in research and new programs that help millions of people with disabilities in North America and around the world.

To date, Safeway has raised and donated more than $220 million to support organizations including Special Olympics, Easter Seals, and a range of other organizations that help people with disabilities.