US grocery retailer Safeway has said it plans to appoint three new independent directors to its board following protests from shareholders about the firm's corporate governance.

As part of the actions taken by Safeway's board, Paul Hazen, a current board member, will be elected lead independent director.

"Excellence in governance and superior financial performance go hand in hand, and these steps support Safeway's efforts to improve shareholder returns," said chairman and CEO Steve Burd.

"Our decisions grew out of a comprehensive and ongoing review process that the Board set in motion more than a year ago and they reflect our recent dialogue with investors," said Hazen. "Our goal is to make this board even stronger and more responsive to shareholders."

The board has vowed to appoint two new independent directors as soon as practicable. George R. Roberts and James H. Greene, Jr., who have served on the board for nearly 20 years and are partners of private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, will leave the Safeway board as soon as appropriate replacements are selected.

The board has also committed itself to appoint another new independent director by the end of this year to replace current board member Hector Ley Lopez. When that appointment is completed, eight of Safeway's nine directors will be independent.

The board also stated that it would name a new independent director to succeed William Tauscher as chair of the board's Executive Compensation Committee. And it said that Robert MacDonnell will no longer serve on the Audit Committee, effective immediately. Tauscher and MacDonnell will both remain on the board as independent directors.