On March 8, 2018, at the World Ocean Summit taking place in Mexico, the European Commission launched in partnership with the European Investment Bank, the Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit (ISU) and WWF, the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles.
“These are voluntary principles that will guide responsible investments to counter the many stresses that oceans are subject to, from overfishing and rising sea levels to plastic pollution. Earlier this year, the EU High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance had recommended in its final report that the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles be adopted and implemented by the finance community. As a result, initial commitments have already been made by Althelia Ecosphere, Aviva Investors, the BPCE Group, Seventure Partners, Willis Towers Watson and the World Bank. In signing up, investors and organisations commit to mainstream these principles in all new investment decisions.”
The launch is in line with the EU Commission’s Sustainable Finance Action Plan announced the previous day on March 8. The latter – among others – includes actions such as Incorporating sustainability in prudential requirements (the EC “will explore the feasibility of recalibrating capital requirements for banks (the so-called green supporting factor) for sustainable investments, when it is justified from a risk perspective, while ensuring that financial stability is safeguarded”) and “enhancing transparency in corporate reporting.”
According to OECD projections, by 2030, the ‘Blue Economy’ — defined as all economic sectors which have a direct or indirect link to the ocean — could outperform the growth of the global economy as a whole, both in terms of value added and employment. In the coming decade, marine energy, marine biotechnology, coastal tourism, transport and food production sectors could offer unprecedented development and investment opportunities. However, there is increasing evidence that losses in the ocean’s natural capital resulting from unsustainable economic activity is eroding the resource base on which such growth depends.
“We will make information available on our investments and their social, environmental and economic impacts (positive and negative), with due respect to confidentiality. We will endeavour to report on progress in terms of implementation of these Principles”
The 14 principles — listed below — include one specifically committing to “transparency”, a topic dear to Seafood Intelligence… Signatory parties also commit to taking a science-led and precautionary approach (“The precautionary principle will prevail, especially when scientific data is not available” […] “More broadly, we will endeavour to share scientific information and data on the marine environment.”).
The 14 Principles for Sustainable Ocean Finance can be found here: https://ec.europa.eu/maritimeaffairs/sites/maritimeaffairs/files/declaration-sustainable-blue-economy-finance-principles_en.pdf
An August 27, 2017, video published on the BBC News website makes interesting viewing because of the claim made that Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) may “cut down the carbon footprint of eating seafood”. This is a claim too often recirculated without provision of the full data.
Closed-contained aquaculture / RAS is indeed and absolutely a concept with great potential (not least the potential for aquaponics & food security in most urban & rural homes in the long-term) but the ‘lower carbon footprint’ argument will only gain validity & credibility if/when all the inputs are considered: namely, the energy & GHGe involved in the massive amount of materials & energy use required.
Lowering ‘food miles’ is great, but not so great if done at the expense of increasing concrete and PVC/plastic/aluminium usage (the cement industry is “one of the primary producers of carbon dioxide”).
Lowering ‘food miles’ is great, but not so great if done at the expense of increasing concrete and PVC/plastic/aluminium usage (the cement industry is “one of the primary producers of carbon dioxide”). Not taking into account all the energy requirements & footprints of RAS in making sustainability claims would equate to considering the sustainability of ‘conventional’ aquaculture without (for example) its feed or biodiversity footprints: something which — everybody agrees – would not make sense.
For comparison sakes, both closed-contained and open-pen aquaculture industries need to measure/assess the environmental – and social / human rights – ‘costs’ of all inputs (including those going into the making of their equipment & facilities) via Lifecycle Analysis (LCA) methodologies. This is also valid for other industries (agriculture, wind energy, etc.). Seafood Intelligence‘s last ‘Top 100 Seafood Firms’ Transparency Benchmark highlighted among many others that only 9% of the world’s top seafood companies communicate on LCA studies/dimension when it comes to fish feed and/or transport-of-seafood-to-market (and much less than 9% provided data)…
Until all energy inputs necessary in the production of a particular good/service are considered, it can be preposterous to make some of those carbon footprint claims.
The world’s first [closed-contained] GM salmon (consumed unwittingly by some Canadians in H1 2017) by AquaBounty which controversially claims to be “The World’s Most Sustainable Salmon” was produced in Panama (!) before being transported to Canada which already possesses ample wild-caught and farmed salmon resources. Where was the ‘smallest environmental footprint’ and which was the ‘most sustainable salmon’ then?!
Until companies become transparent and fully communicate in a timely & thir party-assured fashion on their sustainability performance, many claims to be found on the internet/in the media can be construed as greenwashing / bluewashing…
#Aquaculture #CSR, #Sustainability #CarbonFootprint #SeafoodEthics
See the BBC News video here: http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-40927488/it-s-seafood-but-there-s-no-sea-required
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.