AS Watson tops WWF seafood sustainability rankings of Hong Kong retailers

Published on
August 20, 2021
AS Watson topped WWF's seafood sustainability rankings of Hong Kong’s retailers.

Progress is being made in increasing the sustainability of supply in Hong Kong’s retail sector, but endangered marine species are still being sold in the city-state’s retail sector, according to WWF.

WWF’s latest “Scorecard on Key Areas in Sustainable Seafood Procurement Policy,” released annually, placed AS Watson – which operates the ParknShop supermarket chain – at the top of its rankings of Hong Kong’s retailers based on their sustainability and traceability efforts in relation to their seafood offerings.

The Aeon chain was ranked second and City Super was third on the scorecard, while two other chains –  Kai Bo and Dah Chong Hong – jointly ranked last for refusing to share any information with WWF on their practices.

The annual scorecard scheme is aimed encouraging action to improve sustainability in the Asian city, which has one of the highest per capita seafood consumption rates in the world. Hong Kong is also traditionally a consumption and trading hub for supply of seafood for mainland China. Six groups or conglomerates with 29 chains control 60 percent of Hong Kong’s grocery market.

WWF’s scorecard ranks Hong Kong’s retailers on how they set sustainable seafood targets, how they avoid sourcing or selling threatened species, and how they ensure proper labeling as well as how they monitor seafood for harmful chemical residues. Retailers were also scored on how they scrutinize their seafood supply chains for forced labor risks and how they publicize their seafood sustainability programs.

Last year’s ranking placed AS Watson in fourth place overall, showing the retailer has made significant strides in its progress on its seafood sustainability initiatives. WWF said the retailer was highly responsive to WWF’s discovery of critically endangered European eel for sale in its stores, following a 2020 survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong.

“Its management team took a prompt action to replace those pre-packaged frozen European eels to non-threatened conger eel. At its sushi counters, the company has substituted its existing eel to non-threatened shortfin eel since the end of June 2020. To verify the identity of stated eel species, the company is planning to take random DNA tests in future,” WWF said.

Additionally, AS Watson has signed the WWF-Hong Kong “No Shark-Fin Corporate Pledge” and reduced the stock-keeping unit of golden threadfin bream from two items to one on shelves, among other initiatives.

“The management team is encouraging their consignee to source other, less-threatened alternative,” it said.

Even with the progress, Hong Kong’s supermarket chains still need to be proactive in identifying risks, WWF said.

Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

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