Diversity, equity and inclusion — collectively known as DEI — are no longer buzzwords in the corporate world. DEI is now an imperative, and the convenience store industry's retailers and suppliers are increasingly taking notice and taking action.
“As the recognized industry leader, we have a responsibility to accelerate diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) at 7-Eleven. Given today’s marketplace and the incredibly diverse makeup of the customers we serve, it’s not only the right thing to do, it’s a business imperative,” said Treasa Bowers, vice president of human resources and Women’s DE&I and Belonging at Irving, Texas based 7-Eleven Inc., the nation’s largest convenience store chain. “Having a diverse and inclusive culture is core to the 7-Eleven value proposition for both our workforce and customers. It is incredibly important to both stakeholder groups and gives us a competitive advantage, especially when it comes to core growth drivers like innovation and building loyalty.”
While the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion isn’t new, 2020 and 2021 served as a wakeup call for companies to reexamine their DEI initiatives, particularly in light of what some are calling The Great Resignation, the examination of the Voting Rights Act in the United States, and the Black Lives Matter protests around the world, among many other human rights concerns in society, noted Steven Kramer, CEO of WorkJam, a Montreal-based company that helps businesses with frontline employees deliver a superior employee experience.
“Advancing workplace diversity is more important today than ever before,” he said. “Workplaces are essential to each individual’s ability to grow and care for themselves or their families, and they are also the place where social issues are discussed and debated, whether we as leaders acknowledge that or not. Our customers and employees are taking their business (including their choices where to work) to companies with a proven commitment to DE&I.”
Reflecting Your Community
At Fort Worth, Texas-based Yesway Inc., which operates more than 400 convenience stores across a nine-state footprint, the DEI journey centers on reflecting the communities it serves.
“We want a true meritocracy and culture of excellence. A commitment to diversity must change culture and not merely be a strategy,” explained Derek Gaskins, chief marketing officer at Yesway. “To ensure the exercise is authentic, all levels of the organization must embrace change for it to take root. Culture change is systemic and that is what it takes to commit to diversity, equity and inclusion.”
At Yesway, the DEI commitment comes from the top down. CEO Tom Trkla has championed diversity throughout his career, and the proof is evident in the company’s senior leadership team, according to Gaskins. Additionally, more than 61 percent of Yesway’s roughly 5,300 corporate and retail employees are women, and more than 43 percent are persons of color.
Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., the Laval Quebec-based parent company of Circle K, has a similar mission: representing its customers and its communities.
“As part of our stated sustainability ambitions, we are working toward equity in opportunity, representation and pay. We are committed to a workplace where all team members feel safe, respected and able to develop their full potential. And our aim is that our people and management teams better represent the diverse communities where we work and operate,” said Elisa Goria, global lead for dispensed beverages at Couche-Tard and a D&I advisor to the retailer’s Executive Council for Diversity & Inclusion.