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Jeanine Gilmore, team lead of transport at Sobeys, receiving the Empire Retail Impact award.Provided

Jeanine Gilmore first came to Sobeys Inc., in 1999, for a part-time job to support herself while she finished her university studies. What drove her to seek full-time status in 2000, and that has kept her on the job ever since, is her teammates – as Sobeys employees are known – and the teamwork.

“The team I was surrounded by was unique – a really diverse group, but everybody was very supportive, very encouraging. We all just pushed each other to do better, and that was the type of team that I wanted to be part of,” says Gilmore, now a team lead of transport, in Woodbridge, Ont. “It was the type of team that I knew would help me grow and assist me to help others grow. From the start, I enjoyed going to work every day. I still do.”

The 116-year-old company extends its deep-rooted family culture well beyond its store doors, says Kerry Tompson, senior vice-president of talent, inclusion and HR solutions. From its headquarters in Stellarton, N.S., Sobeys operates 1,500 stores across Canada under such banners as Sobeys, IGA, Thrifty Foods, FreshCo, Foodland, Safeway, Longo’s and Farm Boy in more than 900 communities.

“Our communities matter intensely to our teammates,” Tompson says. Local commitments have been expressed in ways as varied as the community garden Gilmore and her teammates maintained a few years back at an Ontario warehouse, so they could “supply vegetables and fruits for shelters and those who are in need,” recalls the team lead.

Corporate citizenship is embedded across Sobeys culture. Together, teammates support organizations that nurture both healthy bodies and healthy minds. Examples include partnerships with more than 400 local food banks across Canada, support of pride communities and the largest corporate partnership with Special Olympics Canada.

“We’re particularly focused on creating a culture of care, trust and respect throughout our communities,” says Tompson, citing Sobeys’ relations with Pictou Landing First Nation in Nova Scotia, 15 kilometres north of the company’s Stellarton headquarters.

In 2023, Sobeys completed phase two of the Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) certification program. Established in 2001 by the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business, which aims to build connections between Indigenous businesses and businesses in the wider Canadian economy, PAR confirms corporate progress in Indigenous relations in areas of leadership, actions, employment and business development. Certification helps pave the way for a key Sobeys goal – broader and deeper engagement with Indigenous communities across the country, including in the GTA. “We are the largest corporation to pursue this certification,” says Tompson.

“As part of our continued diversity, equity and inclusion journey,” Tompson says, “we’re working with various groups to develop programs focused on creating safe and respectful environments where all are welcomed.”

Diversity and inclusion are two of the building blocks of the team that has Gilmore “excited to wake up every day and go to work,” she says. “I’ve gained so much from Sobeys in terms of growth, in learning how to be around people, learning how to understand them, through a very diverse group. You learn a lot, and it makes you a better person.”

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Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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