Supplier Watch: Five facts of eco-labeling


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
November 30, 2010

Eco-labeling is front-and-center in the aquaculture industry.  To ensure your customers that your fish are harvested in a sustainable, environmentally friendly manner, an eco-label is an essential investment. Yet the costs are high and the benefits slow to surface. Below are a few tips to ensure that you are on the right track for aquaculture eco-labeling. 

1) Believe in your investment

Eco-labeling does not come cheap. But you have to look beyond the cost and the price you’re getting for the product. The trend indicates that prices will improve as well as the number of customers that buy into the program and are willing to pay for it. The hidden revenues are those you can’t measure in dollars, the brand equity you build by being one of the pioneers in environmental sustainability. 

2) Make it a part of your corporate culture

By investing in an eco-label you are telling your customers that you care. You care about the end-product, about its quality, about its purity and about its sustainability. These are honorable values that demonstrate a thoughtfulness of the greater good.  Investing in such values significantly adds to morale in your corporate culture and to the professionalism of your company. An eco-label brings a 3rd party into the picture, one that adds credibility with it stamp of approval on a continually audited basis, and this credibility is felt throughout a company’s culture. 

3) Be open to multiple eco-brands

The number of third-party certifiers is growing and the fear of committing too early to one without knowing which certification label will gain market share can keep you from making the initial investment into eco-labeling. But don’t let that stop you.  There is nothing wrong with seeking the certification of multiple NGOs.  Find the certifiers that will sufficiently support your processes and markets, one size does not necessarily fit all. 

4) Start with key customers & be patient

For fast recognition of your eco-label, partner with your key customers.  Help educate them on the value of the label, and work with their marketing department to organize a launch that will attract the attention of the press.  In-store displays and menu –mentions that highlight your sustainable practices is a win-win for you and your retailer and/or chef. Because one standard for sustainable seafood does not exist, many retailers have developed their own in-store standards. For them to recognize your third-part label they ask a lot of questions and demand a lot of answers. Be prepared to spend time on providing the material and the answers your customers seek.  

5) Defend your label

This is still a new world — third-party certification – and until it reaches maturity there will be NGOs who are critical of your choice. Actively engage these critics to determine how you might find some common ground that will allow your certifications to co-exist symbiotically. 

This Supplier Watch was based on a SeafoodSource interview with Nell Halse, spokesperson for Cooke Aquaculture.

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