US, UK grocery chains tout updated sustainability initiatives

Published on
July 11, 2019

Publix in the United States and Asda in the United Kingdom are touting their updated sustainability and traceability efforts.

Publix, which operates more than 1,200 stores, is adding a “responsibly sourced” and “sustainably sourced” label on certain items in its fresh seafood case and in the frozen seafood case. The new labeling is the result of a collaboration with Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) and Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI), which help Publix identify issues impacting sustainability in the seafood industry.

“This partnership allows us to identify where change is needed the most and empowers Publix to invest in fisheries to help them gain necessary resources to improve their sustainability practices,” Maria Brous, director of medial and community relations for Publix, said in a press release.

Responsibly-sourced and sustainably-sourced icons will appear with the price tags at the full-service seafood department and on shelf tags in the frozen seafood case. 

“Products labeled with these icons have met rigorous SFP and GSSI standards for responsible and sustainable seafood practices,” Publix said.

Meanwhile, Asda published data identifying the fishing vessels that supply stores with cod, haddock, and plaice, part of the company’s annual update of its Ocean Disclosure Project profile. The ODP profile describes all own-brand, wild caught seafood sold by the retailer, along with data relating to management, fishing techniques and environmental impact. 

“The publication marks the first time that a U.K. retailer has systematically begun to identify and publicly disclose information on specific fishing vessels and marks a significant step forward in seafood transparency,” ODP said in a statement.

The new disclosure marks the start of a process in which Asda will eventually publish vessel data for all own-brand, seafood products where it is practical and the information is not commercially confidential. 

“Asda has a commitment to transparency in supply chains and seafood is an area where our customers want to know exactly where we find their fish. By providing details around vessels for some species, we can begin to take our approach to the next level and provide leadership in the retail sector,” said Chris Brown, sustainability director for Asda, in a press release. 

“Transparency is the foundation for our relationship of trust with shoppers and we will continue to keep pushing back the barriers to disclosing information about the products we sell,” Brown added.

The published data identifies vessel names, International Maritime Organisation (IMO) numbers and country of origin. IMO numbers serve as a unique vessel identifier that can be traced back to a vessel even when the vessel changes name, flag, or ownership. 

“The IMO numbering scheme is internationally recognized, and its use is promoted to improve vessel monitoring and transparency,” ODP said.

The ODP was started by Sustainable Fisheries Partnership in 2015 to provide a valuable information resource for responsible investors, seafood consumers, and others interested in sustainable seafood. To date, 20 companies, including retailers, suppliers, and aquaculture feed manufacturers from Europe and North America, have participated.

Asda was the first company to disclose its seafood sourcing via the ODP in 2015 and has published an annual disclosure every year since then. 

Other ODP participants include: U.K. retailers Co-op Food, Lidl UK, Morrisons, and Tesco. Participating North American retailers include: Publix, Walmart US, Giant Eagle, Meijer, and Walmart Canada.

Image courtesy of Publix

Contributing Editor



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