At a time when our natural resources are on a steady and fairly rapid decline, doing well by doing good is becoming a necessity for corporations where sustainability is concerned. While do-gooding under the corporate umbrella is usually proclaimed through CSR and cause-marketing campaigns, sustainable practices are becoming built-in beacons that loom in the background of every decision for companies who stand to be black-listed by heavy-weight environmental activist groups like Green Peace or hard-hitting government regulatory agencies such as the FDA.
Sustainable food is at the forefront of this transition, with the seafood industry positioned as a major target for such watchdog agencies.
Rupert Howes, CEO of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) based in London, says that the industry has created a mess almost as daunting as a shifting climate.
“Overfishing and its associated environmental impact is our second biggest sustainable challenge aside from climate change,” Howes said in MSC’s Vision and Mission video.
The world population depends heavily on the fruits of our waterways and oceans. And, many of the world’s corporations have made a small fortune off that need. While expansive nets and other untenable fishing devices and practices have fulfilled this demand in the past, the end of the unsustainable line is here. Resources are so severely depleted that preservation practices are not just being advocated, they’re being mandated. The pressure is on, and corporations are paying attention.
Walmart, the retailer of all retailers, recently adopted a sustainable spin to its seafood vending practices, offering a private-label sustainable canned tuna option.
While many corporations, like Whole Foods, Safeway, Wegman’s, Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and Harris Teeter rank high on Green Peace’s list of responsible seafood vendors in there 2014 Carting Away the Oceans report, there are many that have not stepped up to the sustainable plate.
Some corporations as well as small businesses and chefs attribute areas of noncompliance on the learning curve involved.
But, in a world full of too much information about everything, it’s not always what you know, it’s who you know and whether or not they can connect you to the right app.
Many non-profit certification and stewardship agencies have partnered with for-profit sustainable seafood distributors to take the burden off corporations and small businesses interested in doing what’s best for business by doing what’s best for the world. Both the MSC and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) connect corporations, small businesses and individuals directly to sustainably sourced seafood distributors, fisheries, and vendors so they can get rid of the guesswork…and, maybe some of the excuses. There’s even an MSC app now that can connect vendors, chefs, and consumers to more sustainable seafood anytime, anywhere.
Companies like Highliner (a distributor for big vendors), FishChoice (distributing to smaller vendors and restaurants), and Sea to Table (with a fisherman to chef model) have partnered with the MSC and the ASC to help connect fisheries and fishermen to vendors and chefs.
Sea to Table’s CEO, Michael Dimin, says that, fishermen like Sea to Table affiliate, Jack Cox, in Beaufort, NC, know best.
“Most fishermen are conservationists,” Cox told Public Address System in a video interview. “In five years from now, we want to be able to do it again. We’re not just in it for today. We take a lot of pride in the way we handle our seafood, and the way we fish our fish stocks.”
“At the end of the day,” he said. “I feel good about what I do.”
“This resource feeds a whole community,” Dimin said. “We hope that we create value for them, because we know they create value for our customers, our chefs around the country.”
The sustainable seafood message – that once whispering voice that passed overhead through grocery store aisles – is now as loud and clear as a bullhorn. And none of us, not even billion dollar corporations, can afford to ignore it.