Viewpoints

From Food Safety to Storms, Good Crisis Management Starts Before the Crisis

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What type of leaders do you want at a time of crisis? Decisive. Fast-moving. Smart.

Yes, all that. But how about leaders who focus on advance preparation that either mitigates an emergency or avoids it in the first place.

There’s no excuse for anything else. The food industry has faced recent challenges ranging from food safety to crushing storms, and the repeated lesson is that more advance preparation makes sense.

The produce industry realizes this. After being stung on numerous occasions, it’s now pursuing a number of ambitious, industry-led food safety initiatives to get out in front of this issue, as outlined in a recent SN Industry Voices blog post by Dave Corsi, vice president of produce and floral at Wegmans, and Tim York, CEO of Markon Cooperative. The authors urge a deep level of commitment within organizations.

“There can be no compromise,” they wrote. “It means thinking about ensuring safe produce, not just as a means of avoiding potential liability issues, but as the right thing to do.”

One of the biggest lessons from Super Storm Sandy in the New York-New Jersey area was the need for the industry to get its ducks in a row ahead of time. At the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference in January, a panel of distributors and state association executives stressed the importance of building advance relationships with outside parties, such as utility companies, because they aren’t always involved in government-business collaborative meetings during a crisis. Moreover, retailers were urged to continuously track frequently changing contacts at the state government level, and to collect all contact information from employees in advance of a crisis.

Meanwhile, recent comments from David Dillon, chairman and CEO of Kroger Co., show he’s in touch with how preparation can help ease a crisis. He urged industry executives to always encourage honest feedback from others, including those in their business and non-business lives, and he spelled out the consequence of not doing this.

“In a crisis, when you really need to know, people won’t tell you,” Dillon said. “So you must nurture it over years.”

Dillon is right, and this underscores the whole point about the need to be prepared. Crises are inevitable. Those who don’t put in the hard work on the front end will find themselves unprepared when it really matters.

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David Orgel

David Orgel is executive director, content & user engagement, of Supermarket News (SN) and its website, SupermarketNews.com. Orgel delivers his opinions on industry trends through a bi-weekly...

Carol Angrisani

Carol Angrisani is an associate editor at Supermarket News. Along with covering the packaged goods beat, she also manages SN’s annual private-label and ethnic marketing supplements. Carol...
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