Making the Grade


Steven Hedlund

Published on
October 5, 2008

Greenpeace is re-releasing its sustainable seafood report card in early December, and not every U.S. retailer will receive a failing grade the second time around.

The report card, which debuted in June, ranked 20 of the largest U.S. retailers based on their sustainable seafood purchasing policies, including whether they sell any of the 22 species on Greenpeace's "red list."

Whole Foods Market and Ahold USA were the best in class. But even they didn't earn a passing grade, receiving just four of 10 possible points from the NGO. When the report card is re-issued in two months, however, their grades will likely improve, says John Hocevar, oceans campaign director for Greenpeace-USA.

Why? In July, Whole Foods enhanced its farmed seafood purchasing criteria, and Stop & Shop and Giant Food, which are owned by Dutch conglomerate Royal Ahold, agreed to stop selling three "red list" species (Chilean sea bass, orange roughy and shark).

Their competitors' grades also may improve. The Food Marketing Institute's Sustainability Task Force has formed a sustainable seafood working group, which met for the first time in August, demonstrating participating retailers' interest in advancing the sustainable seafood movement, says Hocevar.

"Rather than just leave [retailers] hanging, we wanted to give them credit. We wanted to acknowledge that they're making progress," says Hocevar. "But the other side of it is that there's more of a spread than there was six months ago. Several [retailers] haven't made any progress at all."

Expect the second report card to make no more of a splash than it did in June when it received minimal press. The hangover from the presidential election and the fallout from the financial crisis will overshadow news about sustainable seafood, a subject consumers are still grappling to comprehend.

Instead, let the report card serve as a wake-up call to seafood suppliers that aren't actively collaborating with their retail customers to implement or enhance their sustainable seafood purchasing policies. Because if you don't work with your retail customers, Greenpeace certainly will.

Best regards,
Steven Hedlund
Associate Editor
SeaFood Business

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