Inclusion at the supermarket. Interview with the Brand Manager of Carrefour’s Terre d’Italia
We often talk about inclusion at work, at school and on public transport, but we might forget another place of our everyday life where inclusion can be essential: supermarkets. How to make sure that everyone can go grocery shopping autonomously?
This objective is becoming possible for people with a visual impairment, thanks to all those realities that decided to make their products accessible with Braille labels. Information about food products is written in relief, directly on the packaging, to make it readable through the touch, as it already happens by law on pharmaceutical packaging.
The collaboration between Carrefour Italy and Fondazione LIA started in 2018, with a project concerning the Braille labelling of three products of the brand Terre d’Italia, among their offer of sliced meats.
A collaboration that was possible also thanks to the Institute of the Blinds “F. Cavazza” of Bologna and that has continued over the years, adding the Braille labels to new products of Terre d’Italia. Carrefour’s line, combining high quality and Italian tradition, is then more and more inclusive towards those with a visual impairment.
LIA interviewed Paolo Colombo, Brand Manager of Terre d’Italia and Carrefour Selection, to know more about this project.
Carrefour Italy was the first supermarket chain in Italy to present some Braille labelled products with the brand Terre d’Italia. Can you tell us how this project and the collaboration with Fondazione LIA started?
In 2017, during the Diversity Day organized by Carrefour, I attended a course held by Fondazione LIA in our head office in Milan. It has been a very stimulating experience that allowed me to know better this reality.
At that moment of my career, I had just become Brand Manager of Terre d’Italia and I was developing a new line of packaged sliced meats. After having participated to this course, I had the idea of providing our packages with a Braille label describing the content. I shared my idea with the supplier, who was eager to accept the project, and thanks to the collaboration of Fondazione LIA we developed this new line of products. Since its first presentation in January 2018 at Fiera Marca (the most important fair for label products in the field of supermarket chains), the line has now reached 14 items, a number that we are planning to increase.
Which were the objectives of this initiative at the beginning? In your opinion, which are the positive effects for your customers with a visual impairment?
The expertise and insight of all LIA’s collaborators helped me understand that, in addition to the quality of our products, we could and must offer something more to our customers.
The objective was to help our visually impaired customers during their shopping in Carrefour stores and during the daily use of the products at home, allowing them to quickly recognize the product through the Braille label.
Are you carrying out other initiatives concerning inclusion?
Carrefour places a high value on promoting a culture of inclusivity and openness, both internally and externally. We then started several projects over the years aimed at making the shopping experience accessible to all, engaging our employees in awareness-raising initiatives. In addition to the Braille labels on a selection of products, we activated a collaboration with UICI (Italian Union of the Blind and Visually Impaired) to better assist our visually impaired customers. The collaboration consists in an experimental project for some of the stores’ collaborators, who are trained to guide visually impaired people during their grocery shopping, giving them all the needed support and allowing them to be more independent in this activity.
Moreover, to give another example, in the Carrefour hypermarket of Collegno (Turin) we have organized a training programme for the employees to learn the Italian sign language, with the collaboration of the National Institute of the Deaf. Hearing impaired customers have now the possibility to communicate with the store’s staff, getting a better costumer experience.
Lastly, we have experimented also another project for autism, the “Quiet Hour”: at scheduled times of the week, for a few hours, we create the right conditions inside the stores to allow families with children with autism to do shopping in a quiet environment. We remove music, high volume sound announcements and strong lights. These are small concrete actions that can surely have a positive impact on our customers’ everyday life.
Until now the Braille labels have been created for some specific products of Terre d’Italia, with a growing number of new products every year. Are you planning to expand this initiative also to other products of Terre d’Italia, or including other brands perhaps?
We are reconsidering many of our products’ labels right now and my desire is to involve more of our partner companies to extend the number of items with Braille labels.
Looking forward to the next years, are you thinking of starting new projects to promote diversity and inclusion?
Diversity and inclusion are strategic for Carrefour, an essential part of the way the company looks at the future. As regards the objective of reducing the gender gap, for example, we are actively engaged both internally and externally in awareness programmes for our end customers, to promote a more inclusive society for women, from all points of view. If the health situation allows it, we want to develop new programmes, in addition to the already existing ones, aiming at supporting any kind of diversity. The company really believes that this is the right path to follow to give its contribution for a more equal world, offering equal opportunities to everyone.
(Interview edited by Denise Nobili)