New index ranks top 30 seafood companies on sustainability progress

Thai Union was at the top of the first detailed ranking of companies’ progress toward advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The World Benchmarking Alliance's new Seafood Stewardship Index measures the top 30 seafood companies on their commitments, transparency, and performance to meet the U.N.’s SDGs.

Thai Union was lauded for its detailed targets and robust reporting on its sustainability strategy, as well as its efforts to improve fishing practices in both individual and group settings. The company has committed to ensuring 100 percent of its brand packaging is reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025.

"A culture that rewards transparency needs to be developed in the seafood industry, to both understand where the challenges currently are and also the solutions being put in place. Thai Union welcomes the focus that the (Seafood Stewardship Index) is bringing through the lens of transparency and continuous improvement," Darian McBain, Thai Union's global director of corporate affairs and sustainability, said in a statement.

Mowi and Charoen Pokphand Foods (CP Foods) followed Thai Union in the ranking. Mowi scored highest among companies on transparency, with a strong sustainability strategy for managing the environmental impact of its salmon farms. CP Foods, a large shrimp producer, demonstrated robust human rights commitments and group-level sustainability strategies and targets.

The index looked at companies' public disclosures, commitments, and performance in five categories: governance and management of stewardship practices, stewardship of the supply chain, ecosystems, human rights and working conditions, and local communities. It found that most companies are serious about sustainability, with 28 of 30 referencing their responsibilities toward sustainability and 15 publishing forward-looking corporate sustainability strategies. But, supply chain complexity, murky ownership, and ill-defined operational oversight hinder progress.

Across multiple categories, companies’ intentions and plans have yet to translate into measurable progress. While companies are committed to excluding IUU fish from their operations, only about one-third can prove they have specific mechanisms in place to reduce IUU risks in their supply chains.

Twenty-two of the companies have human rights commitments, but only 20 percent could demonstrate remediation mechanisms that would turn those commitments into procedures. And a lack of public disclosure means that certification and sustainability activities are not clear. 

"Across the ranking there are examples of best practice but overall the seafood industry needs to act boldly to meet the UN SDG agenda. The most influential seafood companies globally can make significant progress and they need to quickly," Rik Beukers, who led work on the Seafood Stewardship Index, said in a statement. "The hope is that this benchmark will drive even greater transparency and encourage peer to peer learning to reach the ultimate end goal – more sustainable oceans for us all.”

Overall, the industry needs to move from plans and commitments into active implementation with measurable results, according to the alliance.

"The big take away from this ranking is that there is now a broad commitment and consensus around sustainability among those companies most subjected to domestic and international scrutiny in the past on issues like human rights, overfishing and pollution," Gerbrand Haverkamp, executive director at the alliance, said in a statement. “Transforming the food system requires greater transparency and bold action from the seafood industry … That starts with some of the most influential global seafood companies getting a better grip on their operations.”

Image courtesy of the World Benchmarking Alliance


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