“Supermarkets, hotels, restaurants chains, caterers, and together with their suppliers – Everyone plays an important role in the seafood supply chain. Making a commitment to source sustainable seafood is an important action to drive positive environmental, economic, and societal change. It’s also good for business.”
What can your business do to help sustain seafood?
Sustainability is reflected through details and it requires seafood businesses to observe various aspects in their procurement, and later throughout their operations. Therefore, responsible businesses considering to transform their seafood supply towards sustainability should adequately address the following focus areas:
Using the Save Our Seafood (S.O.S) Guide to conduct a simple assessment of current seafood supply, businesses can have a general idea
of the sustainability status of their seafood. This assessment will then help businesses to focus on managing procurement of species under sustainability risk (red-listed species under the S.O.S guide) and improve on lesser-risk species (yellow-listed species under the S.O.S Guide).
A greater understanding of seafood products and where they come from enables businesses to measure changes needed in their seafood supply and to take action to improve the long-term sustainability of their procurement. For this reason, it is critical to continuously verify with a company’s seafood suppliers on seafood species procured (or the species used in seafood products procured), based on the following information:
- Common and scientific names.
- Country/Location of origin (e.g. from Thailand or South China Sea).
- Fishing gear or aquaculture production method used (e.g. bottom trawl or sea cages).
Using the information above, along with the seafood assessment against the S.O.S Guide, businesses can now accurately identify seafood sustainability risks in procurement. They can then take pro-active steps to reduce their exposure to these risks by changing their buying practices.
Once there is good understanding of a business’ seafood sustainability status, responsible operations can then focus on incorporating the following recommendations into their procurement criteria moving forward:
- Ensure that all seafood offered is legal.
- Always offer seafood that is traceable to its origins.
- Not procuring unsustainable seafood species.
- Phase out unsustainable seafood products and replacing them with sustainable alternatives.
- Preferentially procuring sustainable seafood species / products.
Businesses play a major role in influencing the seafood supply chain, which should start from their suppliers:
- Insist on purchasing responsible seafood – whether certified by Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) AND/OR seafood that comes from a seafood improvement programme. If the supplier is unaware of these two products, explain to them the interest in sourcing for safe, traceable, and legal seafood (i.e. these two products) or ask them to contact WWF-Malaysia’s Sustainable Seafood Team.
- If a supplier does not directly produce seafood from fisheries or farms, verify their seafood source. Make clear the interest to purchase sustainable seafood and recommend them to source from a certified or improving seafood fishery or farm.
- If a supplier obtains seafood from their own fishery or farm, recommend them to improve their practices towards sustainability and express interest to continue sourcing from them if they do so.
- Opportunities can be identified by engaging with seafood suppliers. Most businesses may not be aware that they might be already sourcing from suppliers who obtained certifications (particularly MSC and ASC) and/or under a seafood improvement programme, i.e. Aquaculture Stewardship Project (AIP) and Fishery Improvement Project (FIP). To identify these suppliers, please download the Responsible Seafood Purchasing Guide
Businesses have the biggest advantage in the seafood supply chain as they play the ‘middle role’, thus have the ability to engage with producers / suppliers and consumers. By informing customers and communicating with suppliers, this will lead to increased awareness and production effort for sustainable seafood.
For customer communication:
- Inform them about the business commitment to source for sustainable seafood, whether printed in menus, promotional materials or verbally by trained staff.
- Indicate which seafood species offered is sustainable with correct labelling, such as ‘MSC-certified’ or ‘sourced from WWF-Malaysia’s seafood improvement project’.
When a seafood business understands the challenges, having assessed the seafood procured, and considers setting responsible procurement criteria, it should now embark on implementing strategies to address sustainability concerns in its operations. This is best achieved by developing a sustainable seafood policy which demonstrates business strategy and guides procurement decisions.
The following aspects should be adequately addressed in a sustainable seafood policy:
- The business should be able to recognise the challenges facing the sustainable seafood trade and impacts of commercial seafood trade.
- Clearly define what the business regards as sustainable seafood and the responsible procurement criteria it aims to implement.
- Commit to achievable, targeted dates (e.g. short-term and long-term) by which the business aims to offer sustainable seafood in stages. For example, a business may aim to source 50% of sustainable seafood within 3 years, followed by 75% within 5 years.
- Commit to train and capacity build internal operations such as management, sales team, and procurement staff on:
- Threats of commercial seafood trade to the environment and society.
- Seafood sustainability targets set by the business.
- The business’s developed Sustainable Seafood Policy.
- Develop a communication strategy incorporating support and promotion of sustainable seafood to inform both suppliers and customers.
What are the benefits for businesses committing to sustainable sourcing?
Committing to buy more sustainable seafood is one of the ways of championing sustainability efforts in business, which in turn can help create a positive image for the company. Retailing more sustainable seafood not only highlights a company’s commitment to ocean conservation, it also demonstrates its concern for sustaining local economies and communities.
By engaging in sustainability efforts, companies can manage risks associated with:
- Reputational issues;
- Fluctuations in commodity supply, pricing and financial instability;
- Illegal practices in the supply chain;
- Human rights abuses or social conﬂicts; and
- Climate change.
Transforming how seafood is sourced and processed delivers commercial gains to businesses. Sustainable seafood means sustainable business.
Buying more sustainable seafood encourages seafood producers to catch and farm seafood sustainably. When more businesses demand for sustainable seafood as their supply, this creates incentive especially for local producers – fishermen and fish farmers – to improve their production methods in order to meet that demand.
Sustainable seafood can often be an indicator of safe and better quality seafood as both sustainability and quality require full traceability and best management practices. This in turn indicates a supply chain that is effectively managed.
Driven by value-based consumer engagement, whereby the availability of a unique product combined with business commitment to environmental and social sustainability builds loyalty.
What does WWF-Malaysia do with businesses?
WWF-Malaysia works with businesses to help improve seafood sourcing, encourage sustainable seafood in menus and shelves, and assist in consumer communication. This will lead to increased product availability and better public recognition for sustainable seafood in the local market.
Since 2010, WWF-Malaysia has engaged with various businesses and establishments related to the local seafood industry – Government agencies; hotels; restaurants chains; seafood producers, suppliers, and distributors; caterers; chefs; tourism agencies; research centres to:
- Introduce and promote seafood sustainability in the supply chain.
- Gain input from diverse industry’s perspectives to address challenges and solutions.
- Identify interested businesses who are willing to start their own sustainable seafood journey.