Vivek Sankaran was just 10 months into his tenure as president and CEO of Albertsons Companies when the pandemic hit. While other CEOs were trying to figure out how to shift their teams to remote work, Sankaran had to focus on developing systems to keep the company’s grocery stores and supermarkets, located in 34 states and the District of Columbia, safe, stocked, and open.
Albertsons’ brands include grocery stores Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, and many others.
“We focused first on the safety of our people. I obsessed about it even before the CDC would come out with the recommendations,” Sankaran says, adding that it took almost six weeks before the government issued some safety guidelines.
Sankaran joined Fortune’s Alan Murray and Ellen McGirt for Leadership Next, a podcast about the changing rules of business leadership.
“What we found is when people felt safe operating and working in our stores, they made our customers feel safe,” he says.
And by focusing first on employee safety, Sankaran says the company could then move forward with a sense of purpose that included feeding the communities that they operate in.
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