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After months of negotiations, Loblaw agrees to sign grocery code of conduct

After months of deliberation, Loblaw Cos. Ltd. announced its decision to sign the grocery code of conduct, marking a significant milestone in a process that has been ongoing for years.

Following six months of negotiations, Loblaw's president and CEO, Per Bank, expressed readiness to sign the agreement, provided that other key players in the industry also commit to it.

Bank emphasized that the revised code is fair and assured consumers that it would not result in increased prices during an interview. The code, developed collaboratively by leaders in the food industry, aims to level the playing field for suppliers and smaller retailers.

Previously, Loblaw and Walmart Canada had hesitated to sign the voluntary code, citing concerns about potential price hikes for shoppers. However, Loblaw's chief legal officer, Nick Henn, highlighted that the underlying principles of the code remained unchanged but needed clarity in certain areas.

One crucial improvement involved defining the dispute resolution process, particularly concerning price negotiations between suppliers and retailers.

With a target date of June 1, 2025, for the code to come into effect, Michael Graydon, CEO of the Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada association, expressed satisfaction with Loblaw's decision, emphasizing the need for all major grocers to participate.

While Walmart Canada is yet to commit, other industry players like Empire and Metro Inc. have reiterated their support for the code. Additionally, Gary Sands, a member of the code's interim board, welcomed Loblaw's decision as a significant advancement.

Despite growing calls for mandatory implementation of the code, Loblaw's agreement preceded recent boycotts by consumers, organized through social media platforms, demanding the company's adherence to the code.

Bank clarified that the decision was not influenced by the boycott, although he acknowledged meeting with its organizer, Emily Johnson, to discuss the matter.

In light of increasing food prices attributed to global factors like the conflict in Ukraine, Loblaw has faced criticism, prompting its leadership to address concerns at the company's annual meeting. Galen Weston, Loblaw's chairman, emphasized the company's commitment to navigating challenges while serving consumers' interests.

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