Retailers look to peers to grasp sustainability


Mercedes Grandin, SeafoodSource contributing editor

Published on
March 15, 2010

The Food Marketing Institute’s Sustainable Seafood Working Group (SSWG) participated in a discussion on seafood sustainability at the International Boston Seafood Show on Monday.

Formed in 2008 to address concerns about seafood sustainability, the SSWG comprises 22 executives working in partnership with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), seafood suppliers, government agencies and accrediting bodies to develop case studies, guidelines and educational tools for retailers.

“Our mission is to educate ourselves to understand the issues around sustainability because there is a lot of confusion and conflicting information. We wanted to understand what sustainable seafood is all about, who the players are, what the issues are and prioritize those issues,” said Jeanne von Zastrow, FMI senior director.

“We don’t make recommendations for specific standards. Every retailer has different needs. We wanted to bring in and learn from retailers, suppliers, NGOs and from fishermen as well. We want to understand the issues, but it’s up to each retailer to decide what standards they’ll be using,” said Richard Castle, director of seafood for Giant Eagle.

One of the tools the SSWG offers, Sustainability 101, was discussed as a valuable resource for retailers, seafood suppliers and others seeking information about sustainability. 

“Sustainability 101 is a free tool on our website to help people understand sustainability. We also developed a Sustainability Tool Kit that helps retailers understand what sustainability is, why it’s important and how to develop a business strategy to address it,” said von Zastrow.

The panel also addressed the issue of farmed salmon certification.

“From my perspective, farm-raised salmon certification is coming. We’ve talked to farm-raised salmon suppliers about where they’re moving toward and it’s encouraging, so I’d encourage retailers to talk with their suppliers and find out what improvements they’re making and how they’re moving toward certification,” said Castle.

“It’s created a great dialogue with our suppliers, and they’re very interested in working toward sustainability, because just like retailers, they’re confused as well about sustainability,” added Shawn McMurter, director of national procurement-meat and seafood for Sobeys.

More coverage of the 2010 International Boston Seafood Show >

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