Of Sustainability & Salmon Farming’s Social Licence to Operate: Sustainability Reporting & Sustainability Traceability Matters!

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].

Check out  http://www.seafoodintell.com/?page_id=16 & See Testimonials re. previous reports here: http://www.seafoodintell.com/?page_id=18

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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’.

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