Retailers not progressive on seafood sustainability
There was an excellent commentary last week by Liane Veitch in the Sea Choice, Seafood sustainability report. I thought I’d copy most of it verbatim as it really is very pointed and highlights a great deal of what I’ve been talking about over the last few weeks, but focused on the Canadian market.
On the matter of seafood sustainability, the report shows that most Canadian retailers have made limited progress in the past year. This is the third year that SeaChoice has worked with Canada’s eight largest retailers to assess their sustainable seafood commitments and their actions against those commitments. Research showed that from July 2019 to now, there was no evidence of any improvements by Costco Canada or Save-On-Foods.
An analysis if key performance indicators showed that many retailers are just not disclosing information. However, there are some bright spots – two more retailers are now being transparent about the progress they are making against their sustainable seafood commitment. In the past year, both Sobeys and Walmart Canada announced how much of their fresh and frozen seafood sold in the past year met their commitment. This is a big step forward because a retailer’s impact on sustainable seafood production is only as good as its actual practices. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.
Other notable improvements include Federated Cooperatives Limited’s (“Co-op”) decision to start labelling all of its fresh and frozen seafood products with scientific name, geographic origin, method of production and whether it’s farmed or wild – information that is essential for consumers who want to know what they’re eating and where it came from. METRO, which already has the traceability and labelling in place to support that level of detail for its fresh, frozen and shelf stable products (like canned tuna, tins of anchovies or jars of clams), recently expanded its traceability requirements to all of its sushi suppliers.
Put all this in perspective of Hong Kong. I’m not even sure that big retailers have sustainability policies towards seafood. Their holding companies might have generic policies but whether they cascade into the supermarket chains in unclear. There appears to me more accredited sustainable seafood in the market place which is a great step, but I would suggest it is still in the minority. Maybe a first step in ‘our making a difference’ should be to get them to promulgate a policy. Then, when they’ve made a commitment, expect them to follow through. This year’s global pandemic has highlighted the importance that grocery stores play in our lives. As we start to look towards recovery, focusing on sustainable and responsible business practices is essential to protect vulnerable people, ecosystems, and consumer trust.