My career journey has been an unusual ride. After getting a masters degree in ancient near eastern and eastern Mediterranean archeology from University College London, I returned to the United States. I had some building industry experience and ended up working for Briggs Engineering and Testing for a couple of years as a third-party quality-control representative doing client relations and building oversight for large-scale building and development projects.
It was there that I became passionate about sustainability and read the LEED 2.2 manual cover to cover before self-testing and passing the exam. Shortly after that, I met Bill Sweet, the vice president of engineering construction for Price Chopper Supermarkets’ parent company, the Golub Corporation. He said the company was embarking on a LEED green-building program, and he asked me to interview with them.
The issues surrounding climate change and material resource usage are going to be some of the most challenging that we as a species are going to face. There is a real immediacy required to address these issues effectively, and the time for pushing off responses or the development and implementation of solutions has certainly come and gone.
Before I was hired, [Golub] had done an exploratory package of four supermarkets under the LEED for Retail Pilot Program. Now the program has evolved into a top-down corporate commitment that all new ground-up construction will be minimally LEED-certified. We’ve registered 12 buildings with the USGBC and have certified four in this year alone—two Golds and two Silvers. Our small exploratory program turned into something that is, as far as I’m aware, one of the most robust commitments to LEED-certified sustainable building of any commercial retailer in the United States. One of the defining accomplishments of our sustainable buildings program is our Gold-certified new Price Chopper corporate headquarters. It’s a very public statement for an organization like Golub when you make your corporate value structure manifest in the built environment.
Joseph Berman, LEED AP BD+C, currently serves as the environmental certification specialist at Golub Corporation, where he oversees corporate social responsibility and sustainability initiatives. He is a member of the Clean Cities Coalition and the New York Upstate chapter of USGBC and is the private-sector expert in sustainable building for the University of Albany business school’s G3 masters of business administration program.
At this time Price Chopper Supermarkets is listed as one of the top 20 retail purchasers of green power in the United States. We are currently purchasing 3.44 percent of the overall company’s electrical utilization from 100 percent Green-e-certified renewable energy credits (RECs). That’s equivalent to 5,995 metric tons of carbon emissivity on an annual basis. It’s roughly similar to taking 2,000 average American homes off the grid on a yearly basis.
Many of our sustainability efforts are motivated by a real desire to help minimize environmental impact and provide public benefit. Our Price Chopper Electric Vehicle Charging Station Infrastructure Development Project, for example, is installing alternative fuel pads at five of our locations in the New York State Capital Region. Our long term goal is to install this alternative fuel pad format at 129 store locations in six states—that’s every single one of our stores.
This year Price Chopper is endeavoring to put together its first corporate social responsibility report. We’ve on-boarded a firm called Corporate Reports Inc.; this first report will address corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability over the arc of the organization, and we will communicate that out to the public for the first time in our history.
I think what people would find surprising is how much our industry is actually paying attention right now to sustainability and to corporate social responsibility generally, and how the industry is beginning to look at just about every single element of the business model from a sustainability perspective. We look at buildings, water, packaging, waste, energy consumption, materials, traceability of food, local and sustainable sourcing—the list goes on and on. The supermarket industry is developing a very sophisticated awareness of what sustainability can and should constitute.