Insights by Goldie: Truth, transparency and trust

Sound Consumer June 2010 | by Goldie Caughlan

Truth, transparency and trust: keys to PCC’s policies, quality standards and products.

Are you a dedicated label-reader when you shop at PCC? Or is your “yellow or orange alert level” only fully engaged when you are shopping elsewhere, in mainstream or other conventional grocery stores?

I ask because increasingly in recent years, either when teaching in the stores or responding to inquiries on the phone or via email, I hear frequent comments expressing: “At PCC, I don’t have to read labels because you’ve pre-screened so thoroughly. Shopping elsewhere, however, I spend hours reading all the labels!”

So, why do you think such sweet sentiments bring me both delight and fright? Let me explain.

Of course, it’s very gratifying when you let us know you have such high confidence and trust in PCC! We take delight in emails and letters from members detailing why you like PCC, and especially we love learning that your family considers the co-op yours — because of course, it is! We also share some of those letters in the Sound Consumer — just as we also regularly share letters that are not so glowing. We publish them because we take seriously and value both.

So, it may seem ironic that when I increasingly hear comments that indicate shoppers may be becoming less likely to read product labels at PCC, it sometimes triggers my “fright-button,” and my “alert” level rises.

As a nearly 40-year member of this amazing co-op, I honestly hope our fabulous family of PCC members and shoppers will continue diligently monitoring our performance and our products — and yes, do some reading of labels fairly regularly. It’s like participatory democracy; it’s important.

PCC’s leadership understands that quality standards are a participatory process and that you, our PCC shoppers/members, are not typical passive consumers; you’re active information seekers (most of you are avid label readers), which is why you’re shopping at and/or are a member of PCC. You choose to participate fully in and benefit from the expertise and experience of this, one of the nation’s oldest and the largest member-owned-and-controlled grocers.

It’s vital and a major benefit to all of us that the co-op continues to meet your expectations, which are not static and will continue to rise — even as we’re constantly finding the means to raise the bar ever higher. That’s why we ask for your ongoing, vigilant and thoughtful communications, scrutinizing our efforts, product choices, policies and practices, and sharing your dreams and ideas.

Seriously, please continue reading labels, at least occasionally. Even familiar brands, regularly purchased items, can sometimes inexplicably reformulate. Sometimes an ingredient that was U.S.-sourced now is replaced by an import; at times an ingredient that was certified organic now isn’t. It happens. More frequently than one would wish. Companies don’t necessarily inform retailers. They don’t have to.

When questions arise, it’s good for companies to be contacted directly by customers with concerns or questions, not just from retailers. Please share with us the responses you get from companies. It’s amazing how revealing such responses frequently are!

We’re committed to very high quality standards and we’re continually scrutinizing them to earn your trust and confidence. We have a very talented team of folks all along the chain, in all departments, sleuthing, sourcing, ordering and providing you with products we’re very proud of.

All along the supply line, we intend to stay vigilant, supporting local and regional family producers, and working to increase our understanding and awareness of critical food security and agricultural issues, and environmental, legislative and social justice issues. Whew!

We continue to seek opportunities to provide even higher quality products, especially sourced more regionally, locally and seasonally. As we do so, we’re working to stay informed, educating ourselves and one another. We’re committed to keeping you “in the information loop.”

We ask the same of you since, ultimately, you always are key to helping us keep a strong chain of truth, trust and transparency.

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