“What gets measured gets done”… in salmon farming too!
But first: Lets ‘measure and report’!
Ever wondered how much information is proactively disclosed (online & in English) by the salmon farming industry (fish farmers and feed producers) about its practices, its social-environmental & economic impacts (positive and negative), its sustainability vision & strategy? How much of that information is up-to-date (thus +/- valid); and what is simple boast or greenwashing [i.e. ‘bluewashing’ in the aqua-context] vs. hard facts?
Fish feed constitutes upwards of 50% of the cost… and 70-80% of the carbon footprint of farmed salmon. Have you ever wondered what farmed salmon is fed: what terrestrial ingredients (GM or non-GM) are used in the feed, how much of the marine-sourced ingredients (fish meal/oil) comes from which fish stock and from where? And how those stocks are +/- sustainably managed (can IUU fish be ruled out)? What impacts also do those fisheries have in terms of bycatch, endangering other marine species (incl. marine mammals), etc… This is only but one example to illustrate how ‘sustainability traceability’ impacts and matters to what ends up on our plate…. How it can impact consumers’ decision to purchase farmed salmon products in the first place… and possibly the supermarket / retailer’s reputation in case of ‘crisis’ or ‘scandal’.
Salmon farming* holds great prospects, but the industry needs to be [+/- ‘held’] accountable in ways which can be documented, both for its own internal sake: to improve performance (‘biological’, economic and – not least – ‘reputational’), and for gaining and keeping its social licence to operate. Aquaculture and the ‘Blue Revolution’ holds tremendous potential, not least the potential to feed an ever-growing population. But can it develop in the face of bad publicity, lack of communication and transparency? The industry’s sustainability, growth and its social licence to operate are intrinsically and holistically linked. Acceptance is not only needed at the local political and community level, but also in the – more global – market spheres. Sustainability reporting and accountability contribute to acceptance…
How much progress has occurred in the past year in the salmon farming world? This is a VERY fast-moving industry in terms of size, technology, best practices, eco/responsible certification and how it effectively tackles its sustainability challenges… Who produces what, and how much destined to whom? [Size matters also when it comes to impacts!] These are all worthwhile questions to which we aim to provide answers…
Seafood Intelligence (SeafoodIntell.com) has analysed in great details what & how the world’s Top 36 salmon farmers and Top 11 salmonid feed producers have disclosed regarding their operations in 2016/FY2016 and previous years: quantifiably benchmarking (re. relevance, quality/quantity, timeliness and ‘vision’) disclosures against a set of ~130 key indicators. This is our 7th yearly benchmark, also enabling us to monitor progresses. This latest Salmon Industry Transparency Benchmark can also help other stakeholders (eNGOs, retail chains, scientists and institutions) form an unbiased opinion of what is actually ‘going on’ in the sector: Hundreds of quotes (inspirational or otherwise… including ‘claims’ [+/- substantiated]), figures, references, indexed disclosures per companies etc… The result of a full year’s work based on a demanding methodology!
Mapping risks &#SeafoodEthics: What are salmon/feed firms’ ethical strategies? Do they conduct materiality assessments and map risks in their supply chain? And how do they define ‘supply chain’ and stakeholders? Some argue they have no ‘human rights’ issues “in their country”; but can have some equipment and boats built in Asia. Some of their feed can be made using fish harvested in questionable fashion, or with plant ingredients contributing to the deforestation of the Amazon…? Do companies audit suppliers, based on what ‘Code of responsible sourcing’ or ‘Code of ethics/conduct’? Do they even have such corporate governance? Do they have whistleblower policies? How to they engage with stakeholders and communities, beyond supporting local schools? Do they assess and report (incl. negative) impacts they have on communities? Do they respect and engage with indigenous people on whose ‘territories’ they operate? Etc.
All this, and much MUCH more (~1,000 pages of comparative analysis), in the Seafood Intelligence 2017 Salmon Industry Transparency Benchmark… The only reference assessing communication, green/blue-washing claims against actual disclosures. Well over 100 key performance indicators have been monitored yearly for the past 6/7 years: this enables one to assess where there is progress, and where there is dearth…
By casting the light on those ‘reputational’ topics in an objective/quantifiable fashion and by assessing yearly how transparent the world’s main corporate players are… we have substantiated hope that encouraging companies to assess their exposure/transparency level on a variety of sustainability-related topics does & will lead them to ‘measure and improve’. Seafood Intelligence has encouraged several national and global leaders to improve on their performances – and for some helped them to launch into ‘sustainability reporting’ altogether in a rational, GRI-indexed, way.
The 2017 ‘Salmon’ Benchmark is published on July 31, 2017: Contact “editor – at – SeafoodIntelligence – dot -com” for orders].
PS*: I’ll talk about the ‘wild catch’ salmon side later this year… the ‘wild’ salmon industry lacks considerably in transparency term; as we already found out in our latest ‘Top 100 Benchmark’ looking at the 100 largest seafood companies in the world.
One ‘key’ – very small indeed [but this could arguably sway some European/U.S. consumers’ decision if...] – example of the dearth of knowledge/data available to end-consumers is that much [up to ~50% depending on salmon species and years] of the salmon ‘wild’ labelled on supermarket shelves comes from ‘enhanced’ [or ‘augmented’] hatchery-fisheries relying (in the fish’s early stages to smolt) on salmon feed containing notably GM/GMO ingredients. Those fisheries rely and thus support GMOs agriculture/industries [not that this is necessarily an issue: that’s a very different topic altogether, and complete departure from the ‘transparency’ component/label discussed here]. Even some salmon processors & importers I have talked to over the years ignore everything about the ‘hatchery component’ (what about retailers?)… But there are also dozens of aspects on which the ‘wild’ salmon industry doesn’t communicate, whereas these are commonly reported by many on the salmon farming ‘side’.
How well do the world’s ‘Top 100’ Seafood companies (in US$ sales turnover terms) address the “Seafood Ethics and Sustainability Challenge”?
At last!… After a year of oft-tedious work analysing tens of thousands of pages of annual, integrated & sustainability reports, financial statements, policy documents & countless web pages, etc. the second edition of the only benchmark of the world’s top seafood corporations’ Sustainability Reporting / Transparency has now been completed & is out!
The ‘Seafood Intelligence Benchmarking Report of the Top 100 Seafood Firm’s Sustainability Reporting & Transparency [in English]’ – The ‘Top 100 2016’ – is out!
The report – a hefty 1,580 pages (vs. ‘only’ 1,117 pages for the tentative 2015 edition) – comes in three volumes containing several hundreds of data-rich tables, matrices & comparative tables. It follows on the footsteps of the similar yearly (since 2011) benchmarking exercise which focuses on the world’s Salmon Farming Industry and which has now become an industry reference.
This year sees the Top 5% ranked in the “Excellent!” Transparency category ([Corporate, Social and Environmental Reporting rating] CSERr > 70/100); 5 firms vs. 4 in 2015: +1); 11% in the “Very Good” Transparency category (CSERr [50-70[); 21% in the “Can do Better” Transparency category (CSERr [30-50/100[); 49% in the “Poor to Very poor!” Transparency Category (CSER [0.01-30[); and 14% in the “Absolutely Nil” Transparency Category (CSER = 0.00)… Overall, a lot of work needs doing if the seafood industry is to live up to consumers’ expectations when it comes to seafood sustainability and ‘ethics’.
Did you know – among many other figures – that 79% of the Top 100 seafood firms did not communicate on the [human] fatalities ‘registered’ (or not) in their operations in 2015-2016; and that fishing is one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet? A similar comment could be made when it comes to many ethical and human rights issues, at a time when those concerns are catching the attention of the media and retailers… More than ‘simply’ having economic and environmental footprints, the seafood products which end up in our plates can and do have social (including on ethnic minorities in some of the world’s remote areas, which oft-“coincide” with fisheries and aquaculture activities) and human impacts… What are those footprints? Those assessments start with monitoring and reporting data…
Among many other things, the Seafood Intelligence Benchmarking Report provides a valuable source of information re. the disclosures and non-disclosures from the various seafood / fisheries / aquaculture corporations and industry organisations. The long-term aim being to assess the level of transparency displayed by the global seafood industry, as we firmly believe that the industry (including all ‘keystone’ actor)’s sustainability, its social license to operate, and the transparency it displays are intrinsically linked…
The ‘Top 100’ 2016 report which features 35 Asian firms (25 of which headquartered in Japan), 20 North American firms (17 from the USA), 17 from the EU, 11 from Norway, 6 from South America, etc… is the second edition of an annual comparative benchmark of the global seafood industry’s transparency; rating them against a set of 135 key performance indicators (KPIs) linked to ‘sustainability reporting’ in the seafood realm, thus constituting a ‘transparency audit’ of sorts for each company. Assessments and comparisons are made by sector [Aquaculture; Wild Catch Fisheries; Fish Feed/Meal/oil; Seafood Processing/Trade], country of headquarter, continents/regions, type of company (stock listed: 51/100; Private: 48; Government-owned: 1); type of reporting (GRI-G4 indexed-reporting, Annual/Integrated), Main species Tuna / Salmon, etc…
Overall, 16 companies (i.e. 16%…) stand out for a ‘very good’ to ‘excellent’ transparency record (which can and should nonetheless be improved upon); led by [11/16] firms in the ‘aquaculture’ [particularly salmon farming/feed] category. [Only] 16 companies (not always the same…) are reporting annually according to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) G4 guidelines.
Considering that a quarter (25) of the world’s largest firms are Japan-headquartered, it is troubling [notably for Japanese stakeholders] that the country is the one performing ‘least well’ in terms of transparency. Norway is the country represented by 3 or more firms which averages the best transparency record (almost ‘very good’ in average), with the global ranking nonetheless headed by a Japanese-owned salmon Norwegian company [Cermaq, to be specific, is #1 of the Top 100]. Also worthy of attention — or perhaps ‘troubling’ for those with high transparency expectations in the US/North American seafood market — is the fact that only 1 out of 20 [5%] of the Top 100 North American seafood firms (17 in USA, 3 Canadian) has a ‘very good’ sustainability reporting record; with all other [95%] N. American firms considerably lacking (at various degrees) transparency… It would be unfair to single out North America (not so if one has higher expectations there) as transparency is globally sorely lacking for well over half of the world’s largest firms. It is the latter firms however which provide much of the world’s retailers’ seafood…
As another illustration of the many uses which can be made of the data contained in the report, Seafood Intelligence can draw its yearly ‘Red List’ of some of the important topics least reported/discussed-upon by the world’s ‘Top 100 Seafood’ firms; i.e. those [very important] topics on which the seafood industry is least transparent (scroll down, below).
In all: 67,500 individual ratings (675 per company) were carried out one-by-one, following a thorough assessment of all available material made public online via their corporate websites by the world’s Top 100 seafood firms up-until October 31, 2016.
A holistic approach — and the compiling, tracing and disclosing seafood supply chain data [for example re. Österblom et al (2015)] — can also be credited for the coming-together of some of the world’s largest / ‘keystone’ seafood players in the December 2016-launched initiative called “Seafood Business Ocean Stewardship” — a.k.a. the “Keystone Dialogues” — which aims to “clear-out IUU fisheries, inhumane working conditions and overall “change the international fishing industry.” This is a welcome initiative which we will follow with great interest in months and years to come. Four of the eight major companies taking part in the Keystone Dialogues (i.e. half) also play a pivotal role in the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI)… All 8 firms taking part in the “Keystone Dialogues” are of course featured in this ‘Top 100’ benchmark.
Wouldn’t it also be great to see those 8 ‘Keystone’ firms display a standard for transparency in the seafood supply chain (also a – public – warrant of ‘traceability’ and ‘good ethical behaviour’), backed – say – by an annual (then quarterly if not dashboard-styled ‘live’) publication of ‘keystone dialogues participants’ sustainability report…? The ‘keystone’ status of those firms and their respective positions in the global seafood chain could certainly help the uptake of such transparency standard in the wider seafood industry… No doubt a win-win not only for human rights, seafood sustainability, ocean governance; but also in terms of the social-licence-to-operate it would grant a transparent and sustainable industry, and with it: economic sustainability (never mind ‘food security’) rewards…
The 2nd edition of the ‘Top 100’ report’s methodology has been fully revised [there were a few glitches in the tentative report’s methodology] and also makes the parallel with GRI G4-based corporate sustainability reporting indicators and the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as alluding to various leading seafood sustainability eco-certification standards & criteria.
Among many others, we asked ourselves 35 key questions – relating to some of the 135 key performance indicators monitored. The (+/- perceived) non-compliance and/or non-communication re. some of those indicators contributes significantly to many negative headlines (some which are chronically impacting on imports/exports of specific seafood product/species; costing hundreds of millions of $$$ in lost incomes and – allegedly sometimes – leading to loss of thousands of jobs). Below are the discussions / non-discussions over those selected topics – called simplistically ‘disclosures’ for sake of argument, in the table below. NB: refer to the full report re. the actual ‘quality’ of those disclosures per firm…
One of the many issues which also historically focused our attention was ‘How do the seafood firms communicate on the role and representativeness of women (in their Board of Directors, Top Management etc.)?’ What are the policies in place to tackle the lack/inferiority of women’s presence in the C-suite and decision-making circles?… etc…
- Would you be surprised to learn that 76% of the Top 100 seafood firms fail to communicate on the role and participation of women; and that 60% do not disclose the representativeness of women in top management?
- Would you be surprised to learn that 22% have 0% women in Board AND 0% in Top Management?… and that 68% of fims have a 100%-male Board membership; and 47.5% have 100%-male Top Management team [and 0% have a 100% female Top Management]?
- Would you be surprised to learn that 95.1% of the Top 100 firms have 50% – or more – men on Board of Directors?… And that only 4.9% of firms have 50% – or more – women on Board of Directors?
Shouldn’t another question be: “Is it fair?!”… If and when there are women, should they be ‘relegated’ to solely Marketing, Communication and/or HR (Guess how many women CEOs there are in the seafood industry Top 100…)… And in some countries: “Does the Board women representation follow the guidelines imposed by stock exchange regulations”…?
The transparency data compiled can be analysed in a multiplicity of ways, for example, following is the RED LIST  of least-disclosure seafood sustainability topics by the world’s ‘Top 100’:
This, and much, MUCH, more in the 1580-page Seafood Intelligence 2016 ‘Top 100’ benchmarking report.
Beyond being full of useful comparative information & content for seafood retailers and industry stakeholders in general, the Top 100 benchmarking report can also help firm’s CSR/Sustainability policies & communication in the seafood business (see the Testimonials to see how some of the firms have communicated in the past year; and how they have discussed their rankings in annual report / media & press releases: http://www.seafoodintell.com/?page_id=18). Industry leaders, C-suite executives in private & stock-listed companies, large NGOs & Eco-Certification bodies, Institutions, Foundations and International Retailers, among others, have purchased the reports.
Article by Bertrand Charron, SeafoodIntelligence.com editor & author of the ‘Seafood Intelligence 2016 Benchmarking Report of the World’s Top 100 Seafood Firm’s Sustainability Reporting & Transparency’ published February 7, 2017.
PS: Contact [editor – at – seafoodintelligence.com] if you would like to order a copy (1,750 euros [+VAT @ 20% in the EU]; 1580p/3 Pdf volumes).
More information here: http://www.seafoodintell.com/?page_id=8261 or here: http://www.seafoodintell.com/?page_id=16
NB: This work is not funded by any entity, government, agency, foundation/NGO, industry or others. Seafood Intelligence relies solely on the proceeds of the reports’ sale to carry out this research & work; so please pass the word to anybody whom you feel may be interested.
PS, February 8, 2017; See also the press release issued by Cermaq Group: https://www.cermaq.com/wps/wcm/connect/cermaq/news/mynewsdesk-press-release-1793122/mynewsdesk-press-release-1793122
AIMS… Seafood Intelligence hopes that…
- This report will help seafood companies aspiring to a higher level of sustainability reporting to compare – by topics & specific indicators – & benchmark their performances (where noted) and transparency with that of their competitors and leaders in the field…
- The ‘Top 100’ benchmarking report is designed to help key seafood industry players, retailers, environmental organisations and all stakeholders interested in assessing the level of proactive/voluntary transparency & communication endeavours displayed by top seafood firms worldwide when it comes to corporate, social and environmental sustainability reporting.
- This report identifies Top 100 seafood firms’ major lacks in transparency, and specifically highlights and comments many of the issues left wanting from a third party and objective viewpoint.
- This benchmarking report will help seafood firms devise their first Sustainability Report (and consider GRI-G4 reporting) and gain precious time by learning from the best reporting practices in the industry; and provide them with many useful tips & much information.
- This benchmarking report will provide thoughts to aquaculture firms aiming for ASC certification with a benchmark & check list of sort re. disclosures and topics to be addressed.
- This report provides stakeholders, retailers / buyers, analysts & investors with a snapshot of the 2015 & 2016 (statements & disclosures monitored up to October-November 2016) seafood industry trends and available data. It provides context-setting information regarding the global seafood market and some of the challenges it faces.
- This report provides seafood industry organizations, authorities and eNGOs with an overview of the current status of the global seafood “sustainability” debate; and gives them an insight into key industry decision-makers’ positions and expectations. It will also help them map-out areas of ethical risks re. the salmon industry.
- The Seafood Intelligence ‘Top 100’ benchmarking report provides all stakeholders with ‘[sea]food for thoughts’ over the current Sustainability status of the industry, over how various players report / fail to report; and will help firms & industry organizations and officials also assess how others are dealing with the sustainability challenges they are facing and how they communicate about it.