Regal Springs’ new WE CARE program about more than environmental sustainability
On 5 March, Regal Springs announced the launch of its “WE CARE” sustainability initiative alongside the debut of their new product, “Naturally Better Tilapia.”
The company has long been known for its tilapia products, which it currently grows in farms in Mexico, Honduras, and Indonesia. The WE CARE program – which represents an investment of USD 3 million (EUR 2.6 million) – was, in part, created to maintain a high level of quality across all of the company’s production facilities.
However, the program is much more than a quality or environmental sustainability push. The name itself is a clue to the company’s broader outlook on the next few years of policy, and how it plans to create an all-encompassing program covering issues from every angle.
“When we say it’s the world’s first totally integrated sustainability program, this genuinely is a 360-degree sustainability program,” Peter Hajipieris, the global advisor for corporate social responsibility, sustainability, and external affairs for Regal Springs, told SeafoodSource during the 2019 Seafood Expo North America.
Following a change in ownership in 2016, Regal Springs began developing new strategies for the company, and WE CARE was one of the results of the process.
“During the new ownership, at the start of the ownership process, there was a five-year strategy that was being put together, it was a total business strategy,” Hajipieris said. Through that process, the company settled on pursuing sustainability from the bottom up, from the way the company handles environmental issues, to how they handle labor issues, to how they interact with the communities that the company is an integral part of, he said.
"The position of the business is to be the leader, and to be the leader is to take leadership," Hajipieris said.
Of course, quality product will still be a key to the WE CARE program. Naturally Better Tilapia will use responsibly-sourced feed, no antibiotics, no additives, no chemicals, low stocking densities, high water quality, and more. But that’s just one facet of the initiative. But the program aims to tackle much more than that.
“I think the sustainability a lot of these sorts of programs are going after, is the product sustainability and the value chain of making that happen,” Keith Kandt, marketing director for Regal Springs North America, said “The WE CARE program is certainly that, but it’s also how we care for our employees and how we’re treating them, and we care for our communities.”
Regal Springs’ facilities are often located in remote areas, and many times make up the largest employer in the area. That makes the company an invaluable resource to many of the people that live and work in those areas, and Regal Springs plans to utilize that role for enhancing not just the business, but the communities surrounding its locations. The name “WE CARE” stems from that initial philosophy, highlighting both the passion and pride workers have in their skills, and the company’s commitment to improving the employees lives on and off the worksite.
“What you find is that everyone just cares, and it comes through the community,” Hajipieris said. “Everybody wears a Regal Springs logo, there’s no one who is not proud of what we’re doing.”
The company is working on improving the communities that it directly impacts, within the communities themselves. While the number of employees at its locations vary, the facilities consistently have a ripple effect across the regions they exist in, impacting thousands – or even tens of thousands – of people. That prominent roll is something Regal Springs takes seriously.
That manifests itself through a number of social outreach programs that Regal Springs has engaged in.
“If you take Chiapas [in Mexico], where the business operates, the literacy level there in Spanish, not English, is 16 percent,” Hajipieris said. Literacy programs are a natural progression for the company, as continuing to grow its facilities requires skilled, literate workers. In turn, the community benefits from Regal Springs’ efforts.
Education is just one of the five core pushes for community that the company is making. Reforestation, infrastructure, lake and water quality improvement, health, and education are all integral to the overall program. Regal Springs has assisted with infrastructure projects in the surrounding communities and has run health and dental clinics in the regions the company operates.
One example of the company’s efforts to assist the community occurred during the Lake Toba ferry disaster in Indonesia. After the disaster, emergency services couldn’t cope with recovery efforts. Divers for Regal Springs went over to assist and helped for days.
“There’s a lot of good people that do these kind of things, the unsung heroes,” Hajipieris said. Those unsung heroes will start to be recognized more, as the company is planning to launch a “WE CARE” award to recognize them.
While the product will continue to be a big part of the process over the next five years, it’s just one piece of the puzzle.
“The product is only one part. WE CARE is also making the organization the best,” Hajipieris said. “It’s also about the people, the processes, the whole model, genuinely trying to be the best.”