Redmond: Certification is retailer-driven

By

Steven Hedlund

Published on
March 2, 2010

Editor’s note: SeafoodSource Editor Steven Hedlund is in San Diego this week reporting from the World Aquaculture Society’s Aquaculture 2010 conference.

Retailers, not consumers, are the driving force behind corporate social responsibility and farmed seafood certification, said Peter Redmond, the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s VP of development, administration and communications. Redmond was addressing attendees at the World Aquaculture Society’s Aquaculture 2010 conference in San Diego on Tuesday.

Redmond, keynote speaker at the five-day event, spent 17 years at Walmart working his way up to the role of VP and divisional merchandise manager for seafood and deli products until joining the GAA as a consultant in 2008.

“I really drank the Kool-Aid on sustainability. I bought a butt load of seafood, and when I understood that, I knew I had the ability to make changes within the industry,” said Redmond, who oversaw a USD 500 million seafood-purchasing budget at Walmart, the world’s largest retailer. “And that’s exactly what Walmart did. We ripped apart the USD 500 million of seafood we bought and we changed our philosophy.”

(Walmart has committed to purchasing wild seafood from Marine Stewardship Council-certified fisheries and farmed seafood produced according to the GAA’s Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) standards.)

Now Redmond is working to develop marketplace acceptance of the BAP standards. And on Tuesday in his 40-minute presentation “The Importance of Certification,” he emphasized the importance of addressing the four key areas of seafood certification — environmental practices, social practices, food safety and traceability.

“You won’t be able to get one without the other — food safety and traceability go hand in hand,” said Redmond. “They’re going to be mandated, so you can either go with a program that’s voluntary, or sooner or later someone’s going to tell you what to do.”

Redmond also addressed the importance of transparency in the process of developing standards: “This, for me, is where the rubber meets the road. Any standards have to be transparent. There have to be multiple stakeholders involved. Any standards should be visible and open to review, or it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”

Redmond also tackled the need to control certification costs: “We have to be very cognizant of the expense that responsible farming can handle, because Retailer X requires this and Retailer Y requires that.”

But perhaps the highlight of Redmond’s talk was his assertion that retailers, not consumers, are the driving force behind corporate social responsibility and farmed seafood certification.

“For retailers, the biggest push here is corporate responsibility,” explained Redmond. “How many people actually believe that retailers have customers banging down the doors saying, ‘I want to know what you’re doing about this, that and the other?’ Outside of a couple [of retailers] like Whole Foods, I can guarantee you that [the answer is] zero. I probably met with 25 retailers in the last 12 months, including the top nine or 10 in the United States, and I asked them that question. And they all said, ‘Absolutely not. It’s our initiative. We’re doing it to make sure what we’re doing is right.’

“Are some of them doing it to follow what others have done?” asked Redmond. “Maybe. But, at the end of the day, they’re doing it.”

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