Nearly all retailers agree that health-care costs are way too high, but Steven A. Burd, chairman, president and CEO, Safeway, is determined to do something about it. Burd, 58, has emerged as one of the nation’s leading advocates of health-care reform, endorsing a plan that guarantees affordable, high-quality insurance to every American. On the home front, Safeway has undertaken an ambitious plan that involves getting employees to bear more individual responsibility for their health. The company pays for all preventive care, such as annual physicals; helps employees better manage chronic conditions; and offers wellness programs. The net result of the program: an approximate 11% reduction in Safeway’s health-care costs, a healthier employee population, and the ability to keep costs under control going forward.
Burd also has wielded significant change in Safeway’s retail model, rolling out a “lifestyle” format that focuses on prepared foods, organic products and perishables in an inviting, easy-to-shop environment. The format has re-energized Safeway’s business and given it a point of differentiation to help to fend off challenges from Wal-Mart and other competitors.