UK sustainable seafood group targets international rollout

Published on
September 10, 2015

With 74 percent of U.K. retail sales of seafood now adhering to the voluntary sourcing and labeling codes it introduced a year ago, the Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC) revealed it would like to take its vision and unique supply chain engagement strategy to overseas markets.

Speaking at the World Seafood Congress (WSC) 2015, in Grimsby, U.K., Katie Miller, SSC coordinator at environmental NGO ClientEarth, said the coalition was keen to build on the approach it had taken in the U.K. market and that there was growing interest coming from the EU and further afield.

Essentially, the SSC works with the seafood industry in areas where there is no legislation in place, principally in terms of the environmental claims made on labeling.

“There has been a lot of interest in the United States, particularly on how we managed to get supply chains to agree to the voluntary codes,” said Miller.

“We have shown a voluntary approach can complement and enhance the industry,” she said. “It’s a new way of working and improving sustainability.”

Signing up to SSC’s Voluntary Code of Conduct on Environmentally Responsible Fish and Seafood Sourcing requires that members commit to the responsible sourcing of all own-brand fish by following good practice, such as good traceability, transparency and openness. The code includes a commitment to taking a risk assessment approach to sourcing fish, and basing decisions on the outcomes to help the fishery or farm to move towards sustainability.

Its Voluntary Code of Conduct on Environmental Claims, meanwhile, is designed to create harmonized seafood labeling that will provide consumers with accurate information on the provenance and sustainability of the fish or seafood.

SSC launched the voluntary codes in September last year after three years of multi-stakeholder development and businesses have used the past 12 months to align their operations and ensure their labeling complies with them, said Miller.

“What we have done is create minimum criteria across own-brand fish. A consumer can go to any of the retailers and if the product says its ‘sustainable,’ it has been third-party certified or equivalent, or if it’s ‘responsible,’ then they can be assured that responsible behavior is behind the sourcing of that fish.”

Other environmental claims can no longer be used by members.

As well as expanding internationally, the SSC also wants to grow its membership and collaborate on improvement projects for fisheries.

“The coalition currently has 25 businesses leading the way in terms of harmonization across the U.K. supply chain, but there’s a lot of interest from other companies with a view to joining and implementing meaningful voluntary codes,” said Miller.

Members that have already signed up to the codes include Marks & Spencer, Birds Eye UK, Young’s Seafood Limited and Direct Seafoods. There are also four representative bodies, comprising the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the National Federation of Fish Friers (NFFF), that have been able to contribute on behalf of their sectors.

“They have all been instrumental in ensuring that the codes can be used by any business selling seafood in the U.K.,” she said.

“In addition to that, we also want to work with others to improve fisheries in new ways, and there will be further meetings on that type of approach in the coming months. The output probably won’t be codes of conduct, it might be a much more tailored approach.”

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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