How Euclid Fish's John V. Young is driving change from the middle
Improving the sustainability of supply chains and operations can seem like a daunting task for companies working in the seafood industry due to the variety of issues, fisheries, tools, projects, and governance and management models involved in sustainable seafood. It can be especially challenging for mid-supply chain companies that are often caught between demands coming from the retail end of the chain and challenges of implementation on the supplier end.
SeafoodSource spoke with Euclid Fish Company Vice President of Operations John V. Young about the challenge of leading from the middle of the supply chain. Mentor, Ohio, U.S.A.-based Euclid Fish is a fourth-generation family foods company operating since 1944. The company has wholesale distribution throughout the U.S. states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky.
SeafoodSource: Sustainability tends to be developed at the producer level or driven by retailer demand. How has Euclid been able to lead change from the middle of the supply chain?
Young: Euclid Fish Company has been able to drive change from the middle of the supply chain through our dedicated resources to sustainability, including actively engaging in sustainability efforts internally and externally with strong buy-in from the company’s leadership. Specific actions include recently updating our sustainability policy.
We also commit our time and effort as a member of Sea Pact. This gives us an advantage to work in a pre-competitive space and engage with other member companies where we can bounce challenges and solutions for what is arising in the space while we take collective action on different sustainability issues. Along with Sea Pact, we also joined the Global Tuna Alliance (GTA) last year to support its RFMO advocacy efforts.
Our business is located in Mentor, Ohio, so we depend on the purchasing team to conduct yearly site visits and meet with our fishers, harvesters, and farmers. Being located in the near Midwest, we put trust in our vendors who we have built relationships with over our four-generation timeline. These steps of working within Sea Pact and GTA, collaborating with other companies, buy-in from upper management, engaging vendors, and our sourcing policy demonstrates how we drive sustainability change from the middle.
SeafoodSource: Seafood companies tell us that the biggest challenge to implementing sustainability and sustainable practices is the complexity of the issues affecting their supply chains, which is a bigger barrier than money, resources, or capacity. How has Euclid as a company navigated this challenge?
Young: Our organization has been able to navigate this challenge by staying informed on a variety of issues and learning from fellow Sea Pact members and Sea Pact’s NGO advisers, such as FishWise, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, and Ocean Outcomes. We proactively seek guidance from the NGO advisers to help lead us through certain challenges where guidance or clarity is needed. I feel this is invaluable for our company. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the complexity of sustainability issues, so we aim to be informed on the issues but also to prioritize areas of engagement based on business relevance and impact.
Each company moves at a different pace with variances in sourcing and products, but it helps bring the lessons learned back to Sea Pact members so we all can learn from one another how to address the challenge at hand. We are effectively collaborating precompetitively, which helps guide Euclid Fish Company to make the best choice to implement solutions or how to effectively solve what is in front of us.
SeafoodSource: What are some of the other projects you are involved in?
Young: We are participating in a few projects, and we are really excited about them! Currently, I am serving as Sea Pact’s chair of the board, which has been an invaluable experience. In addition, Sea Pact has biannual grant-funding cycles. Reviewing letters of interest (LOIs) and proposals for potential grant funding that can transform our industry is fascinating to me.
We have beefed up our food safety program at our processing and distribution center. This change has led Euclid Fish Company to a BRCGS [Brand Reputation Compliance Global Standards] “AA” Rating and, in turn, has increased our supply chain verification program to ensure our sources and purchases are tracked and our vendors are following the proper food safety guidelines from cold chain, HACCP, GFSI [Global Food Safety Initiative] schemes, recall, etc.
We took this project a step further and have piloted a supplier self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ) with the help of FishWise. The SAQ asks a series of questions in regards to the social responsibility, integrity, and human rights elements within our vendors’ supply chain, whether they are controlling it themselves or if they are verifying their own chain of custody. We rolled this out in 2022, and we took it a step further and asked the same set of vendors in 2023 to monitor the responses and hopeful growth in the area of social responsibility in our supply chain.
SeafoodSource: It sounds like a big motivation for Euclid is to be a responsible company supporting responsible management of seafood resources. Do these efforts resonate with your customers?
Young: Euclid Fish Company is generationally committed to responsible seafood sourcing. In 1944, our great grandfather, John Comella, created this business on selling hardshell clams from the East Coast and built a strong following of customers in his community of Euclid, Ohio. We are under 10 miles away from Lake Erie, which allows us access to the strong Great Lakes fisheries.
Through the years, each generation has grown a consistent message of sourcing the best product from the best resources. We understand the importance of knowing where our seafood is coming from and how we can tell the story of the fishers, harvesters, and farmers. The market demands responsible and sustainable seafood, and we want to continue to deliver on that demand through responsible sourcing so we have access to products for generations to come. We are here to bring the source to their tables from our wholesale business or from our retail market.
Euclid Fish Company has committed to these efforts to innovate our marketplace in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky so that our longtime or new partners know that we are setting the practice for a responsible food source for our communities. With Euclid Fish committing to these standards, we are raising the bar for those around us, those who supply us, and those who expect an assured supply from us.
Photo courtesy of John V. Young/LinkedIn