Guy Dean embraces triple impact approach as he moves on from Albion
Guy Dean served Canada’s Albion Farms and Fisheries for 13 years, starting as the vice president of the company’s import and export division before taking over as its chief sustainability officer two years into his tenure. As of 30 April, Dean has stepped down from his role with Albion to pursue a new venture with Pacific Northwest supplier Organic Ocean. SeafoodSource caught up with Dean to discuss his next steps, the evolution of his personal philosophy, and the seafood industry’s progress on the sustainability front.
SeafoodSource: What were some of the accomplishments you’re proudest of from your time at Albion?
Dean: I have a few that I’m quite proud of. Most people know me for my commitment to sustainability, but I’m a dedicated businessman and I’m quite proud of my contribution to the profitability of Albion through the divisions I’ve managed. Of course, I’m extremely thankful that Albion provided me with the runway to create a world class seafood company that has been recognized as a sustainability leader within North America and I’m proud of the many “first’s” we’ve accomplished on that journey. From being the OceanWise founding business partner, or being the first seafood company in Canada to measure their carbon footprint, or being the first distributor in North America with BAP certification, or to becoming the first company in Canada to join the Ocean Disclosure Project. With that being said, I would have to say that being a founding member of Sea Pact has probably been the accomplishment I’m most proud of.
SeafoodSource: Why did you decide to leave?
Dean: Just as the sustainability movement has evolved and changed over time, my personal philosophy about business has evolved as well. I have really begun to embrace the concept of “triple impact” in business, where we have an equal focus on people, planet, and profit and all three are critical for the success of the organization. That doesn’t mean that Albion isn’t focused on these initiatives, but when I was presented with the opportunity to join a smaller organization that deeply believes in this philosophy, I knew I had to make a change.
SeafoodSource: What will you be doing next?
Dean: I’m going to be the president and general manager of a small vertically-integrated seafood company located in Vancouver called Organic Ocean.
SeafoodSource: Can you give a little more detail about the company you’re moving to? What does it do, how large is it, what are its markets, its stance on sustainability, etc.?
Dean: Organic Ocean is a direct-from-source supplier that primarily offers Pacific Northwest seafood caught from either their own fleet or partner vessels. We sell to many high-end restaurants within North America and Asia, either direct or through a small premium distributor network. We have 12 employees currently and operate out of new facility right on the fishing docks in Steveston (Richmond, British Columbia, Canada) adjacent to the mighty Fraser River. The wonderful fit for me was that everyone in the organization shared the same passion about sustainability as I do – it’s like preaching to the converted.
SeafoodSource: Can you talk about the importance of its belonging to B Corp and 1% for the Planet – what those organizations do and what it means to you that the company is a part of those efforts?
Dean: Just as I discussed earlier, the focus on being a triple impact business is important. Organic Ocean realized this early in their startup phase and not only became a B Corp, but also is a 1% for the Planet member. For those unaware of these organizations, Certified B Corporations (B Corps) are businesses that meet the highest standard of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. 1% for the Planet is an international organization whose members contribute at least 1 percent of their annual sales to environmental causes.
SeafoodSource: Will you push to have your new company join the Ocean Disclosure Project, as you did with Albion? Or do more tracking and traceability, like you did with ThisFish and Pelagic Data Systems at Albion?
Dean: With regards to ODP – of course – as I’ve publicly stated many times, any organization that sells seafood should be participating in this important project. Give me a couple months to get settled, though, before you see anything from us on that front. With regards to traceability, we already know everything about the product we are selling so we will need to start looking at innovative ways to tell the story of our products and the fishers and harvesters that support us. One thing I really was impressed with [regarding] Organic Ocean was that they were already doing DNA analysis on their products and publishing the info on their website to prove the provenience of the products they were selling. In my opinion, this is well ahead of the curve.
SeafoodSource: How important was it that participating in the seafood sustainability movement be a part of the next position you took?
Dean: It’s part of my DNA, so it would be pretty hard to remove it for my next position, but the sustainability movement is almost a means to an end. You know, when news got out that I was leaving Albion I was inundated with people asking if I was going to stay in the seafood industry. The reality is that I couldn’t imagine any other industry to be involved in because I firmly believe in the viability of this industry – the jobs it creates worldwide; the communities it supports internationally; and the food source it provides to two and a half billion people daily on this earth. But the only way we are going to preserve this resource for future generations is to fish and grow it responsibly. So, for me, my focus on sustainability is about protecting the investments we have made within this industry and insuring access to the healthiest protein source on our planet.
SeafoodSource: Are you still serving on the stakeholder committee for the MBA Seafood Watch program? Will you continue in that role as well?
Dean: I will continue to serve as the industry representative for the Multi-Stakeholder Group for MBA, as the position is less about the organization I represent and more about me as an individual. That said, although I’m blessed to be surrounded by so many amazing people – I often wonder why they continue to involve me in these amazing initiatives.
SeafoodSource: Do you think the global seafood sustainability movement, which you’ve played a major role in advancing, is making enough progress? What are the major roadblocks, and what do you see as some of its biggest successes?
Dean: I’m glad you asked that question. Some of your readers may have read my call to action after I won the Champion Award. I believe we are on the cusp of a tipping point to create a more sustainable industry; however, we are not there yet. Our roadblocks are that we all have our own individual and business agendas and some of these impede the overall progress of the industry. We’ve already proven that pre-competitive collaborations can work so we need everyone to come together with a common purpose. It doesn’t matter if you are NGO, retailer, distributor, importer, processor, government, international union, or a multi-faceted corporation that does it all. We need to figure out what is holding this industry back from a more sustainable perspective – what the root cause is, and how to solve the issue. One group can’t do it alone.
SeafoodSource: As climate change looms and threatens to destroy or fundamentally alter entire marine ecosystems, do you think efforts at things like more traceability or creating FIPs are misplaced or in vain? What can the industry do to tackle the larger, existential issue of global warming?
Dean: Global warming is a major issue for our planet, but I look at this as being a much greater issue that requires commitment from our entire earth – not just the seafood industry. On the other hand, we have some major issues that are impeding the progress of our own industry. SeaBos did a pretty good job on highlighting some of the major challenges of our industry like IUU, modern slavery, and plastics in our ocean, but we really need to delve into the root cause on why we have these issues if we are really going to move the industry forward. Yes, we have major global issues like global warming, but these are issues that all humanity needs to focus on. Let’s tackle our own industry issues and help push us over the tipping point. I’m confident we will succeed.