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CRISIS LEADERSHIP: In Their Own Words – Jeff Hamilton, president and CEO, Nestlé Canada


Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures; food manufacturers have implemented such measures to ensure that Canadians continue to have access to safe food. They’ve modified their manufacturing process and their supply chains to address unprecedented demand. “In Their Own Words”  brings the behind-the-scenes stories to Grocery Business’ readers.

Jeff Hamilton, president and CEO, Nestlé Canada

Crisis leadership initiatives         

At Nestlé Canada, we put people at the centre of everything we do and during these challenging times, we remain focused on three priorities, the first being the safety of our frontline workers. Our employees are the heart of our organization and as a testament to their tenacity and outstanding service, we recently announced that we are providing additional financial support (a temporary increase of $3/hour) to all employees located in our factories and distribution centres, retroactive to March 16, 2020. Salaried employees in our factories who cannot work from home will receive a bonus as well. Additionally, in the event of any temporary shutdown related to COVID-19, up to twelve weeks’ full pay will be provided for all hourly and salaried staff affected by the shutdown. All employees in our retail operations that have been temporarily closed will also receive full pay up to twelve weeks.

Second, maintaining business continuity is key as we are heavily relied upon to safely deliver on our commitment to provide food and beverages, which is an essential service to society. We have strong business continuity plans and we work very closely with our customers, suppliers and distribution partners to build these inventories of critical supplies and products.

And third, as a purpose-driven organization, we support our charitable partners year-round, however, during this crisis we are amplifying our support and have provided:

  • Over $2 million in financial and product donations including bottled water, baby/infant food, confections and pet food to Food Banks Canada;
  • $150,000 to the Canadian Red Cross to support key areas directly related to COVID-19;
  • Increased financial support to Kids Help Phone to enhance the charity’s capabilities to respond to the increased volume of calls, texts and emails from vulnerable youth; and
  • Products to local healthcare and emergency services to support front line workers. 

Impact on the supply chain

Our industry’s role is critical, as we are responsible for ensuring that Canadians have access to the food and beverages they depend on. As the situation evolves and as new rules and regulations are implemented, we continue to adjust our daily operations, taking every necessary precaution to ensure the health and safety of our employees.

We are working closely with our retail partners to ensure that our broad portfolio of products that Canadians are looking for are available. We are carefully managing our supply chain and being agile with what is produced and shipped, which varies by product and by customer. At a time of crisis, we believe that a simplified portfolio approach enables greater efficiencies across the entire value chain.

Your business takeaways from this experience

At Nestlé Canada, we began thinking through possible scenarios in the event that the COVID-19 situation accelerated in Canada, fairly early on. Even with comprehensive and well-thought through plans, the pandemic progressed so rapidly, that we quickly had to move from planning to execution. A key takeaway for me is the importance of being agile and being able to pivot from one plan to the next. As an organization, agility is one of the attributes we encourage in our employees and I have been amazed at how quickly our teams have been able to adapt to this new reality.

I have been reminding my team that in these times of crisis, it is more important to be fast and to execute something well, rather than to be focused on perfection. During these ever-changing times, we are seeing that we need to be less obsessed about the small details and more committed to being fast. Speed has been critical across our supply chain and the teams have been empowered to make important decisions very quickly.

Finally, I think it has never been as apparent as it is now, how important it is to have good relationships. The time to begin nurturing relationships is not when you are going through the crisis; it is when you are operating under normal circumstances. At Nestlé Canada we take great pride in the relationships we have with our customers, our suppliers, our distribution partners and our consumers, so in times of crisis, they know that they can count on us for support.

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