New SAGE initiative launched to create a more gender inclusive seafood industry
Addressing systemic barriers to gender equality in the seafood industry is one of the prime directives of SAGE, a new nonprofit launched on 13 October courtesy of its founder, Julie Kuchepatov.
Kuchepatov, the former director of seafood at Fair Trade USA and a founding member of Ocean Outcomes, formed SAGE to build a more inclusive seafood industry that will empower and elevate women, who make up 50 percent of the sector’s workforce, yet remain underrepresented in key management and decision-making roles.
“Working closely with the seafood industry and NGOs in the sustainable seafood movement, SAGE will address systemic barriers to gender equality in the billion-dollar industry and in the global fisheries and fish farms, whose products are sold by retailers and restaurants around the world,” the nonprofit said in a press release.
Currently, a lion’s share of the work being done to ensure sustainable seafood at origin is through an environmentally-focused lens, Kuchepatov said, with social responsibility considerations being adopted and embraced more and more.
However, “women’s essential contribution to the industry” are still largely overlooked, which is why SAGE is setting out to achieve gender equality by 2030 in at least 75 percent of the seafood industry and global seafood production. According to Kuchepatov, meeting this goal will inevitably lead to a natural increase in the volumes of sustainable seafood available around the world, and aid in satisfying U.N. Sustainable Development Goal No. 5, related to achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.
“The seafood industry has done a lot to advance environmental sustainability and social responsibility to date, but if we hope to accelerate and scale the successes that have been achieved so far, we must evolve solutions that are inclusive and gender equal,” Kuchepatov said. “SAGE is such a timely initiative because the industry is being forced to reimagine itself due to the challenges around COVID-19, such as new distribution models and disruptions in global seafood production. The time to include diverse voices in decisions about the future of the industry is now.”
SAGE helps to highlight and home in on a crucial area for improvement in the seafood industry, Thai Union Global Director of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Darian McBain said.
“I applaud SAGE for bringing a dedicated focus to this work within the industry. I support these efforts to amplify the voices of women working in the sector, who are often left out of the design and implementation of sustainability efforts regardless of where they are found in the supply chain,” McBain said.
Core to social responsibility are gender-positive and affirming policies, Bristol Seafood President and CEO Peter Handy said. As a sustainability-minded seafood business, Bristol looks forward to collaborating with SAGE, he said.
“Bristol Seafood has been committed to social responsibility within our company and in our sourcing practices since the beginning,” he said. “Gender-positive policies are an integral part of social responsibility and an area worthy of our industry’s attention. We are excited to support SAGE as it works to empower more women in the sector and build pathways for emerging women leaders to contribute to the responsible growth of sustainable seafood production and an inclusive industry.”
Coastal Quest, a 501(c)3 non-profit based in California, is the fiscal sponsor for the SAGE initiative. Coastal Quest Executive Director Tegan Hoffmann said SAGE’s overarching aims and mission are in perfect alignment with those of the sponsoring non-profit.
“We are thrilled to participate in the launch of SAGE and provide critical support to further SAGE’s mission, which is complementary to our own. Participation of women in decision making about natural resources is critical to building resilience in coastal communities, so the missions of SAGE and Coastal Quest are mutually reinforcing. We look forward to a prosperous future of supporting each other in these critical efforts,” Hoffmann said.
Seafood stakeholders looking to incorporate gender-equality policies into their operations and women within the industry in need of support are encouraged to reach out, Kuchepatov said, adding that more information on the initiative is available on the SAGE website.