From BSR: “Business: Blue & Green”

fishtails
>
P’fish’ers
>
A great read posted on the Business for Social Responsibility website. Very thoughtful essay by Mike Sutton, VP at Monterey Bay Aquarium, about the threats to our world’s ocean and ways to combat those threats (climate change, habitat destruction, overfishing, and pollution). Business can be (if it wants to be) a savior, as we’ve always advocated at Passionfish: Commerce and conservation working together.
>

del.icio.us Digg it Netvouz Newsvine reddit StumbleUpon Wink Yahoo MyWeb

 

Confusion over eco-labels? It could get worse before it gets better.

fishtails
>
P’fish’ers, we’ve learned this week that the wild Alaskan salmon fisheries have decided to part ways with the eco-label provided by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). As far as we’ve known, the MSC label has been the gold standard for certifying fisheries as ecologically sustainable.
>
And, if you look at our own history, you’ll see that we’ve supported MSC 100 percent over the years.
>
So, it came as a surprise this week to read the news on IntraFish, a seafood industry go-to source, that the Alaska wild salmon industry is going to work with a new eco-label certifier called Global Trust. I’m sure it’s super complicated behind the scenes but I wanted to add my perspective/s on this. [There are also certifiers for farm-raised seafood (aquaculture) such as the Global Aquaculture Alliance with its Best Aquaculture Practices label].
>
The MSC certifies wild seafood and has been in existence since 1999. It was created by the World Wildlife Fund and Unilever: Giants in their respective sectors. The process is thorough, if not daunting, for fisheries that wish to be vetted. And expensive as the participating fisheries must renew their certifications every five years, while the participating retailers pay a licensing fee to use the MSC logo on their packaging. The MSC uses third-party certifying agencies and they promise an independent, transparent process. Over the years, they’ve grown substantially, so more and more MSC-certified products have entered the marketplace all over the world — giving us consumers confidence in the product and giving the retailers a price premium on their products.
>
At Passionfish, our organization has promoted the MSC since our inception. We’ve held many public events featuring the MSC and the products of their eco-certified fisheries that had gone through their tough process– such as wild Alaskan salmon (and lesser knowns such as the Western Australia rock lobster!).
>
While we’ve spent time promoting MSC-certified products, the BIG PLAYERS have shelled out dollars to promote the eco-label as “the best environmental choice in seafood” (the MSC motto). I’m talking about seafood wholesalers and retailers (buyers across the planet). The people who do the “dirty work” for us consumers by vetting products that are “good for us and for the environment” so we don’t have to. A massive buyer stuck in the middle right now is WalMart, the largest retailer in the U.S. They committed to buying only wild-caught seafood that has earned (& therefore depicts) the MSC seal of approval. Which means, they are now considering dropping wild Alaskan salmon. Why? Because they could lose brand loyalty. Brand loyalty = customer loyalty = TRUST. They want their customers to have trust in their products. It remains to be seen what they will do…
>
The buyers (wholesalers and retailers) are caught in the middle of this debate. They’ve spent time and money: in the form of licensing agreements and staff training and marketing, to promote MSC-certified seafood products. They’ve counted on the MSC label as part of their “corporate social and environmental responsibility” portfolio. They are trying to do the right thing, which includes trying to make our lives (their customers) easier.
>
The outcomes of the eco-label debate: Will the MSC just lose one client (albeit, its biggest –wild Alaskan salmon?). Will a better eco-label come along that satisfies buyers? Will it be easier or more difficult to achieve? A watered-down label of lesser meaning? Or surprisingly more robust? Less expensive? It was inevitable that other labels would come along to compete with the MSC — why not? A healthy debate should surround what is “the best environmental choice in seafood.”
>
Meanwhile, this issue still does not stick with consumers as much as those in the environmental community nor the seafood industry would like. People still want someone to tell her/him that the product doesn’t trash the environment. Because we (the general public) really don’t want to become experts on this subject. When we have a bunch of competing labels on the market, whether their logo is cast in green or blue or beige, shaped like a tree or a fish or an amoeba, people will tune out, or they’ll buy the product that they perceive is the healthiest and that is, for sure, less expensive.
>
Meanwhile, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program is continuing its due diligence by comparing the various seafood eco-labeling schemes as they make their best (green), okay (yellow), and worse (red) choices recommendations. I think it’s safe to say that we’re all very eager to see the outcome of their study! We all know this is about trust. Who can you trust?
>
And, maybe someday, there will be NO need for eco-labels at all, because everything will be environmentally sustainable (and socially, too, with no human rights violations!). Instead, all do-gooding companies across the planet will agree on a code of conduct, and as a powerful consortium, they will paste black labels on those nasty products we should all avoid. Until then…
>
On a lighter note, we will be celebrating our 8th annual “Poisson d’Avril” (April Fish Day) this year. It’s our celebration of fish and mischief. We’ll be highlighting this and other crucial ocean/seafood sustainability issues in the flesh in New York at the Culinary Institute of America and in California with the fun-loving Cooks Confab, as well as online here and at our Facebook page.

Patti