Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is essential to our co-op’s success. In addition, a diverse, equitable and inclusive organization is aligned with our values. PCC aims to inspire and advance the health and well-being of people, their communities and our planet. Our work to support that vision was more crucial than ever this past year when in addition to the health pandemic, we also faced a pandemic of racial and social injustices.
We are committed to having our Board of Trustees reflect the communities we serve. Our Board currently is made up of 60 percent women, with a woman chair and three of the four standing committees led by women. We know we need to do more to improve the racial diversity of the Board. As a first step, last year we partnered with BoardReady, a nonprofit that specializes in recruitment of diverse candidates. Through their network and the Board’s continuous recruiting efforts, we identified qualified candidates of diverse racial backgrounds and invited them into the process. There is a BIPOC candidate on the slate for the Board election in 2021.
Staff Growth Opportunities
We are committed to the leadership development of our staff and providing career growth opportunities. In 2020, we evaluated paths to leadership roles to build equitable access for our diverse staff. In addition, we amplified and increased our recruiting efforts in BIPOC communities. To support that work, we created and filled the role of Staffing and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager. The responsibilities of this role include development of a strategy to recruit diverse candidates, as well as partnering with leadership to develop a clear path to career growth for existing BIPOC staff, and cultivating an inclusive environment for our staff.
Implicit Bias and Equity Training
We are committed to operating stores that are inclusive and welcoming places to work and shop. This year, in collaboration with the Seattle-based consultancy Becoming Justice, we rolled out implicit bias training at our new store locations, including Bellevue and the Central District. We tailored the training for each store based on its needs. The training included a range of topics, from retail racism to implicit bias and microaggressions. In addition, we trained all of our store leadership in a two-day, “Leading for Racial Equity” training centered on race and racism. The goal was to build competencies in eliminating implicit bias in hiring and creating a more equitable and inclusive workplace to better support our staff.
Community Outreach + Support
We care about the communities we serve. In 2020, we opened our Central District store, a fully built grocery store that had been abandoned by another grocer. We kicked off our announcement in a community meeting, organized community listening sessions, held job fairs and met face-to-face with local nonprofits and community leaders. We learned a lot from the community, and continue to, applying these learnings to our store operations and our giving strategy. We identified Byrd Barr Place — a Black-led nonprofit — as our food bank community partner. We donate thousands of pounds of organic and sustainable groceries to their operation from our Central District store to Byrd Barr Place on an ongoing basis. We also support our local economy by carrying a wide variety of locally made products that are highlighted in our stores, including products from BIPOC-owned businesses.
For decades, we have donated to community organizations who, like us, are strengthening their community, working toward more sustainable, equitable food systems and protecting the environment with a focus on BIPOC-led organizations. We provided donations, sponsorships and support to BIPOC community groups, including the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, BIPOC Organic Food Bank, Northwest African American Museum, and Soul of Seattle, which highlights Black chefs’ culinary talents. We provided organizations that work on equitable and organic food systems with up to $4,000 in grant funding, including EarthCorps/Black Farmers Collective, FEEST, Viva Farms, and Food Innovation Network. We also provided in-kind use of our kitchen to diverse local nonprofits for community-led food access and cooking classes. In addition, we sponsored Pride, provided staff PCC Pride pins, and distributed pronoun pins in allyship with our LGBTQIA+ staff and community.
Diverse Entrepreneur Incubation Program
We continued to invest in our diverse vendor incubation program in partnership with Ventures. Our program, which has been in place since 2018, helps diverse entrepreneurs scale their business and uniquely provides clients with space on our shelves. Our Scaling for Success class, offered through Ventures, helps entrepreneurs scale up successfully to wholesale sales. Our merchandisers mentor the clients in attendance every step of the way — from briefing them on our standards to mentoring on the intricacies of wholesale — culminating in a pitch night. We featured six new Ventures’ products on our shelves this past holiday season, with many more already having found placement on our shelves through the program. Last year, we expanded our partnership to help with the most frequent challenge diverse entrepreneurs face — access to free capital. We issued $8,000 in microgrants to diverse entrepreneurs (BIPOC, female and LGBTQIA+) in partnership with Ventures.
We are making progress on our DEI journey, but we have much work to do. In 2021, we are committed to continuing to advance DEI through a number of initiatives across our co-op in order to further build inclusion and equity into the fabric of who we are. We recognize the need to bring more diversity into our staff at every level, and also the importance of creating environments in which our staff feel like they belong at PCC. In 2021, we have initiatives planned to address recruitment, outlining career pathways, building an inclusive culture, more staff education, expanding our diverse vendor program, and continuing to support our community through giving in BIPOC communities.