Safeway unveils its ‘2015’ seafood policy


James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
March 21, 2011

Safeway, the Pleasanton, Calif.-based retailer that operates 1,702 stores in the United States and Canada and an additional 161 stores in Mexico, on Tuesday announced the details and goals of its sustainable seafood sourcing policy.

Phil Gibson, group director-seafood for Safeway, unveiled his company’s commitment to environmental stewardship at a panel discussion titled “Putting Sustainable Seafood Policies Into Practice: Lessons Learned from Businesses” at the International Boston Seafood Show.

The major takeaway from Gibson’s remarks was that all of Safeway’s fresh and frozen seafood will be sustainable and traceable, or in a credible, time-bound improvement process to reach these goals by 2015.

“Safeway has been working on sustainable seafood for several years, but due to the complexity, we needed an outside resource to design a program tailored to our needs,” said Gibson. “We partnered with FishWise because they balance bottom-line concerns with a real commitment to ocean conservation.”

Tobias Aguirre, executive director of FishWise, which is based in Santa Cruz, Calif., said Safeway’s commitment is the result of a collaborative and competitive effort with other non-governmental organizations like Sustainable Fisheries Partnership of Seattle, the World Wildlife Fund’s Aquaculture Dialogues and forums like the Food Marketing Institute’s Sustainable Seafood Working Group.

“I believe it’s the most progressive commitment yet made by a retailer,” said Aguirre moments after the conference concluded. He added that Safeway’s sustainable seafood policy is one that other retailers could follow.

Gibson said Safeway chose to work with FishWise because the organization is “focused on business and solutions, not an agenda.” Safeway’s 2009 sales totaled USD 40.9 billion.

Safeway’s commitment has four key aspects: First, partnering with a credible group to form a sustainable seafood task force, which it did with FishWise, a process that began in 2008.

Supplier outreach (FishWise surveyed all of Safeway’s seafood vendors to analyze the performance of the fisheries and aquaculture operations they source from), staff training and customer outreach are the others. Safeway also created a customer brochure titled, “Always a Good Catch,” that summarizes the company’s internal mandates.

“With a company of our size, we know our 2015 commitment is ambitious,” said Gibson. “But, we also know that it is important. For us, the key is to think big and to collaborate with groups that share our vision of a sustainable seafood industry. Kids probably aren’t thinking much about seafood now, but they will when they grow up, and we want them to be able to enjoy healthy sustainable seafood just like we have.”

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