Walmart announces sourcing commitment for its Great Value private brand canned tuna

Published on
June 8, 2020

Walmart is moving to source its private brand canned tuna, Great Value, from either Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified fisheries or time-bound fishery improvement projects (FIP) actively working toward MSC approval, by July 2020 – effectively satisfying a key aspect of the company’s original sustainable seafood policy goal years in advance.

Announced on 8 June, World Oceans Day, the sourcing decision is intended to deliver “affordable products in a way that helps preserve the planet” to Walmart’s customers shopping in its U.S. stores, and to drive global change, the retailer said. According to the United Nations, one-third of global fisheries have been fished beyond sustainable limits, a narrative Walmart intends to rewrite by committing to sourcing Great Value-branded products from MSC-certified, or FIP-originated, sources.

“With a clear signal from leadership, our team has invested in research to help us better understand the value chain of tuna and ask the question, ‘What’s the right way to do this?’” Sean Reber, who leads Walmart’s global sourcing team on direct import programs for packaged food, said.

Walmart’s buyers have long been collaborating with Great Value tuna suppliers to achieve its goal, the company said. Suppliers either already have been MSC-certified, or are partaking in FIPs that are working towards certification with definitive goals, measurable metrics, and time-bound milestones, the retailer confirmed.

“And we know Walmart can’t do it alone. Sourcing seafood more sustainably requires greater effort on the part of suppliers and others toward the goal of reducing overfishing, eliminating bycatch and supporting healthier oceans,” Walmart said in a blog post.

“Making sure affordable, high-quality tuna that meets these requirements, makes it all the way to the aisle is a very complex process,” Jessica Baldini, buyer for Walmart U.S. shelf-stable tuna, added. “It takes alignment and collaboration with internal leadership and external stakeholders – so there are a lot of people who have to be on board with the idea that ‘sustainability is what Walmart stands for.’”

Regarded as a milestone move, Walmart sees the sourcing decision as “a first step to influence global practices around sustainable seafood,” with Great Value canned tuna positioned to establish a roadmap for other brands, empowering them to take part in positive, global change.

The retailer has asked Great Value suppliers to report their progress using the Seafood Metrics System, managed by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), as a means to help identify areas for sustainable improvement in the supply chain, SFP Global Markets Director Kathryn Novak noted.

“To help identify areas for improvement in aligning sourcing with sustainability policies and goals, SFP works with Walmart to collect information on the sources of their seafood supply. Building continuous improvement across seafood supply chains can drive much-needed progress in fishery management and production around the world,” Novak said.

The Great Value canned tuna goal marks an important first step for Walmart in a long-term mission, which involves the rest of the retailer’s shelf-stable tuna assortment following suit, with respect to sourcing, by 2025.

“When Walmart says, ‘We’re committed to buying sustainable tuna,’ it sends a message loud and clear to the fishing vessels, to the captains and to the industry at large,” Reber said.

Photo courtesy of Walmart

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