OPERATIONS

Ron Johnson: ‘I was a terrible fit for J.C. Penney’

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Ron Johnson, who has been keeping a relatively low profile since he was ousted from J.C. Penney in April 2013, took to the podium in May, as a guest lecturer at Stanford University. Johnson, a graduate of Stanford and a member of its board, was a guest speaker at the university’s View From the Top series, where he discussed with Stanford Graduate School of Business students Penney, Apple and Target and the lessons learned over his career in retail.

Looking back on his time at Penney, Johnson believes it was the pace of his transformation plan, as opposed to the plan itself, that was wrong. It was too fast for a company as traditional as Penney.

“Most of the things I’d done at Apple and Target worked and so you think, well, this will work too. And the reality is, you know, we moved too quickly. It was too fast for the board, the customers, employees, and shareholders,” he said.

Johnson told the students he asked to resign from Penney three times.

"I resigned three times," he said. "In February I offered to resign, in March I offered to resign, and finally in April, the board chair said ‘Ron, we’re going to accept your resignation.’"

Johnson said he ultimately came to the conclusion that Penney was not the right place for him.

“It was disappointing because I really believed we would make it work, but it was a relief because the lesson I learned is I was a terrible fit for J.C. Penney,’’ he said. “I’m a creative person, here’s a company that isn’t uber-creative. I believe in change, this company’s much more comfortable, like many people are, with the status quo.”

Click here to see the video of Johnson’s Q&A at Stanford.

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OPERATIONS

Kroger includes water conservation in 2014 sustainability goals

BY Dan Berthiaume

Cincinnati – The Kroger Co. has published its eighth annual sustainability report, setting its first-ever water conservation goal and providing a progress update on moving retail locations toward "zero waste" and sourcing 100% certified sustainable palm oil. Since 2000, Kroger has reduced energy consumption by nearly 35%. It has 557 Energy Star certified store locations and another 517 that are eligible.

Highlights of the report include:

Kroger is committed to reducing water consumption in supermarket locations by 5% in 2014. This is Kroger’s first public water conservation goal. In 2013, Kroger manufacturing plants reduced water usage by 61 million gallons, which is equivalent to the yearly water usage of 1,455 American homes.

The company is moving toward the EPA’s Zero Waste threshold of 90%, in all Kroger retail locations. To get there, Kroger will increase the diversion rate to 70% for all stores by the end of 2015. Currently, the company diverts 59% of waste.

Kroger is committed to sourcing 100% certified sustainable palm oil by the end of 2015. The company has begun the transition to certified sustainable palm oil in three food production facilities that make products containing palm oil.

"We will achieve or exceed many of our 2015 goals and have begun the process of determining key 2020 goals in many areas,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger CEO, in a statement. “We intend to push for faster and more accelerated improvement across all areas of our business, including water conservation.”

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NRF hires senior policy counsel; names VP of government relations

BY Dan Berthiaume

Washington, D.C. – The National Retail Federation (NRF) has hired Paul G. Martino as VP and senior policy counsel, and promoted Beth Provenzano to VP for federal government relations. Martino and Provenzano will work with the NRF Government Relations Department and focus on emerging public policy priorities, including data security, payments, mobile and e-commerce, privacy and patent reform.

Martino joins NRF from the Washington office of the national law firm Alston & Bird LLP, where he served as a partner and co-chair of the firm’s Privacy and Data Security practice. He has worked with the retail community as a consultant to NRF on a number of retail industry issues since 2008. Before joining the firm, Martino served as majority counsel to the Senate Commerce Committee and principal advisor on privacy and e-commerce to its Chairman, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona.

Provenzano has been with NRF since 2011. She has been leading the retail industry’s efforts on patent litigation reform and continues to play a role in the debate over swipe fees. Before joining NRF, she served as deputy chief of staff for the Office of the Secretary of the Senate and staffed Senators John Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, and Bob Graham, D-Florida.

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