Collaboration needed for sustainability success
A key message at Monday's SeaFood Business Summit at the International Boston Seafood Show was that collaboration is needed for companies developing sustainability policies.
During the session, "From Words to Action, Lessons from Industry on Sustainable Seafood," panelists including representatives from the retail, distribution and manufacturing sectors provided insight on how they developed their company's sustainability plan, the response to the plan and the challenges they confront. SeaFood Business Editor in Chief Fiona Robinson moderated the discussion.
My Organic Market, with five stores in Maryland and Virginia, has had a sustainability plan in place for about nine months, and it has been well received by customers. The grocery chain was unsure how to go about launching the program, and worked with NGO FishWise to help create and implement the program. Lisa DeLima, VP of grocery and marketing for MOM, said the NGO was "the reason we felt confident enough to launch the program."
Central Coast Seafoods, a distributor in Atascadero, Calif., also worked with FishWise to develop its sustainability policy.
In both cases, the NGO helped the companies implement seafood policies and find substitutes for popular but threatened seafood species.
Giovanni Comin, owner and CEO of Central Coast, said to it is "necessary to establish legitimacy to have some sort of third-party involvement in your plan.
"It's nice to have an NGO to call on when lack of collaboration can cause customer confusion, added Comin.
High Liner Foods made sustainability a priority more than a year ago, realizing that it was necessary to satisfy not only its needs for today, but for the future, said Bill DiMento, director of manufacturing and regulatory affairs. The company, which works with the Marine Stewardship Council, National Fisheries Institute, Global Aquaculture Alliance and a few NGOs, recently helped convince the Russian pollock, cod and haddock fisheries to seek MSC certification.
The recently formed International Seafood Sustainabilty Foundation is dedicated to respond to the growing threats against global tuna stocks. The group's mission is to help ensure that global targeted tuna stocks will be sustained at or above levels of abundance capable of supporting maximum sustainable yields. To do that, the foundation will work to reduce bycatch and help fund scientific research that supports improved management. The group has already launched its first steps and is working with the World Wildlife Fund, said ISSF President Susan Jackson.
"Although it's a common goal, there are differences," said High Liner's DiMento.
Other challenges the panelists discussed included consumers not willing to pay for sustainable certified seafood, identifying products that have been evaluated by the conservation community, differences between NGO programs and finding alternatives for "red-listed" species.
Despite difficulties, all the panelists agreed having a sustainable seafood plan was an important factor.
"Sustainability is not a fad. Doing the right thing is no longer an option, it's the answer," said DiMento.