This article was originally published in September 2020
Three years ago, PCC completed its first “materiality assessment,” a tool that helps organizations identify their top priorities when it comes to social and environmental (SER) issues. The insights we gained from talking with members, shoppers and staff members gave us clear directions to develop the five-year sustainability goals that we’re pursuing today, such as eliminating petroleum-based packaging from our deli and adding 1,000 new organic products to our shelves by 2022.
However, a lot can change in our society and environment in just three years, so it’s important that we adapt to these evolving landscapes as we develop our next series of goals.
This is why we recently enlisted the expertise of Sustainable Business Consulting (SBC), a Seattle-based consultancy, to design and implement our second materiality assessment—and a much larger one at that. In 2017 we collected just over 100 responses. This year, we received well over 6,000. SBC conducted in-depth interviews with our close community partners, hosted engaging roundtable discussions with our store staff, and distributed thousands of online surveys to PCC members and staff. In fact, some of you reading this may have completed one.
We asked participants to identify today’s most pressing SER issues and the top initiatives that they think PCC should focus on next. By and large, this year’s findings were similar to the previous version. We learned that sustainable packaging, food waste reduction, fairly sourced products, and food access and affordability were among the highest-ranking initiatives that participants felt PCC should prioritize. We also asked participants to share feedback on what we’re currently doing well and where there are opportunities to strengthen how we communicate our SER work. For example, we learned that participants were most familiar with our sustainable packaging and organic products goals, yet, were least aware of our goal of providing electric vehicle (EV) chargers at all stores. These findings will help us determine how and where we can be more effective at sharing with the community what we’re doing.
Materiality assessments are a foundational element from which sustainability programs like PCC’s come to life. We’re eager to apply what we’ve learned from our members, partners and staff to develop our next series of sustainability goals and will share more in future issues of Sound Consumer.