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Walgreens Integrating Diversity Throughout Its Organization

Drug chains are among those retailers who seem to understand best that changing demographics in the United States require changes in the way they do business, and Walgreens has been particularly active in ensuring it can respond institutionally.

With Baby Boomers aging and minority consumers becoming a critical growth segment of the population, Walgreens is launching initiatives that take into consideration the growing importance of minorities, and not only as customers. Earlier this month, Walgreens hosted a meeting of key suppliers that promoted greater involvement with minority- and women-owned businesses.

Of course, women aren't a statistical minority, but they remain underrepresented in many business segments, and Walgreens concluded that encouraging their greater participation in its business, as well as that of ethnic minorities, could only help bring ideas to its operations that would align the company more closely with the needs of the customers that are shopping its stores. Suppliers including Amerisource Bergen, Cardinal Health, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Watson Pharmaceuticals invited best-in-class woman- and minority-operated business partners to what the company dubbed its Power of Alignment Expo at Chicago's Navy Pier to facilitate new connections. In total, 118 businesses â€" including firms in professional services, trucking and transportation, distribution and warehousing, construction, and printing and advertising industries -- attended.

Walgreen's has been approaching diversity issues broadly, developing programs that will help it effectively respond to changes in the demographic reality in which it does business. For example, reaching out to minority consumers also means staffing to support their needs. A year ago, Walgreens announced that it would donate more than $1 million annually to support initiatives dedicated to promoting diversity at pharmacy schools in the United States. It targeted $10,000 in annual aid for each of the country's 111 accredited colleges of pharmacy to support efforts at increasing diversity among pharmacy school students. In doing so, Walgreens ensured the it could recruit critical employees who could help it serve an evolving clientele.

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