We maintain a continuous dialogue with organizations and initiatives in Switzerland, Europe and production countries. This dialogue enables us to assess external expectations of our company at an early stage, build up our knowledge and pool our strengths.
We involve relevant stakeholders in joint projects to ensure a regular exchange of knowledge and experience. This exchange takes place in bilateral meetings, in working groups or informally around the fringes of larger-scale events. The fact that we do not practise promotional communication, take an open approach to dealing with difficulties in accommodating the varying expectations with regard to sustainability, and highlight our achievements in a transparent manner has helped to ensure a high level of trust and legitimization.
Coop stakeholder forum
Every year, we invite around 50 representatives from environmental, consumer and producer organizations as well as individuals from universities and administration to tell us in concrete terms what they expect from us and to discuss these expectations with us. By means of an online survey carried out in advance, we determine which aspects are important to our stakeholders in order to ensure that these issues are addressed. Participants then form working groups to discuss their concrete expectations and present them to those in attendance. The small size of the event and the active participation of members of the Executive Committee and management ensure direct feedback and an open exchange.
The results of the Coop stakeholder forum flow into the target-setting process at the level of the Coop Group Executive Committee. With “Transparency in the product chain” in 2014, for example, we tackled an issue that had been particularly dominant among stakeholders in the previous year. Participants believed that retailers should have detailed knowledge of the product chains of the individual products, and keep them as short as possible. In addition, they also wanted to see harmonized environmental and social standards, as well as fair distribution of risk and opportunities throughout the product chain, with the prevention of undesired side effects such as the exclusion of smaller producers due to excessive administrative and financial expense. This input is now being processed as part of an internal project aimed at ensuring transparency in product chains.
The fifth edition in June 2015 was devoted to stakeholders’ expectations of effective sustainability communication. The participants formulated their specific expectations and discussed them with our communication managers. For stakeholders, a sustainably structured product range and the comprehensive enshrinement of sustainability at all levels of the company are paramount. The following measures play a key role: clear communication of goals, monitoring, the validation of facts with credible testimonials, participation in ratings and external examinations. The stakeholders appreciated timely, fact-based online communication and in particular the personal exchange. The results were again incorporated into the objectives-setting process at the level of the Coop Group’s Executive Committee and into the new concept for sustainability reporting.
In 2016 the focus was on “Sustainability 2025+”. The main trends relating to sustainability that were addressed by the various working groups are:
- Environmentally friendly production and animal welfare
- Changing consumer habits (veganism/vegetarianism, sharing economy)
- Impact of climate change (weather phenomena, migration, bottlenecks in the supply chain)
- Use of energy
- Changing societal structures as a result of age and migration
We will continue to discuss the results of the workshop in our Sustainability steering committee. This is the most senior relevant body in the Coop Group and is situated at Executive Committee level.