How well do the world’s Top 100 Seafood companies (yours… or inevitably one of the ones you are probably [in]directly sourcing/buying from) address the Seafood Ethics and Sustainability Challenge? Seafood is big business: a third of the world’s ‘Top 100 seafood’ companies benchmarked by Seafood Intelligence have a turnover exceeding the US$ 1 billion mark…
Article by Bertrand Charron, SeafoodIntelligence.com editor & author of the ‘Seafood Intelligence Benchmarking Report of the World’s Top 100 Seafood Firm’s Sustainability Reporting & Transparency’ published November 26, 2015.
At last!… After a year of tedious work analysing 30,000 pages+ of annual reports, financial statements, policy documents & countless web pages, etc. the first-ever attempt to assess the state of Sustainability Reporting in the global seafood world has now been completed!
The ‘Seafood Intelligence Benchmarking Report of the World’s Top 100 Seafood Firm’s Sustainability Reporting & Transparency [in English]’ is out!
The report – massive: ~1,000 pages… – comes in three volumes containing several hundreds of data-rich tables and matrices. It follows on the footsteps of the similar yearly (since 2011) benchmarking exercise which focuses on the world’s Top Salmon Farming and Fish Feed companies and which has now become an industry reference.
How do the world’s top seafood firms – all with an international dimension and multi-hundreds of million US $$$$, and a third of which exceed the $1 billion mark – report and communicate when it comes to ‘their’ sustainable seafood. They all claim to be ‘sustainable’ or ‘respectful of the environment’ and many of the Top 100 claim to be ‘the best’ or the ‘world’s largest’ in one segment/species or the other. But… How so? How do they address the various environmental, social and corporate issues which often propel the industry in the limelight of international media? How transparent are they – practically – when it comes to their various impact and efforts (or not) to mitigate them? How do they report to stakeholders and the public at large on their [yet to be properly defined] ‘sustainability’ which is certainly open to interpretation? How should they report? If information is provided: is it still up-to-date and/or potentially misleading? What are Top 100 seafood firms’ competitors doing in that regard? Do they have specific policies addressing environmental, social, ethical, health & safety issues? If so, which? What are ‘sustainable seafood’ influencers saying they should be doing? How can their impacts be measured and compared to other natural resources-based (or not) industries in terms to environmental footprints?… etc…
Beyond Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR), comprehensive Sustainability Reporting enables a seafood firm not only to have good mechanisms in place to deal with risks & crisis situations (there are many; we monitor them on an almost daily basis), it – by the very fact of measuring KPIs – helps drive the firm’s sustainability vision both internally and externally, provides credentials to justify its social licence to operate, and provides one of many means – but not the least – to engage with stakeholders.
This first ‘Top 100’ benchmarking report clearly shows were most of the companies are clearly lagging behind a few leaders -– globally, and per region / sector — and are in dire need to improve their sustainability reporting performance in the language of the international marketplace in which they – and their stakeholders – operate: i.e. in English (some do not even have a website…). We also clearly hint at the increasing correlations made between ‘sustainability & integrated reporting’ with ‘sustainability’ (including in terms of financial/economic profit, investor confidence, consumer trust and market access) and urge the seafood industry to take notice. Communication and perceptions have also an important role to play in the economic development (or non-) of a sustainable seafood industry. Lack of addressing many topics discussed and scrutinised in this report can and does have repercussions: environmental & social; and in economic, politic and trade terms.
NB: Seafood Intelligence attempts to answer the following question: “[How well] Does a particular seafood company proactively communicate/report to stakeholders in English and via its website on the topic of “sustainability”; and in particular as regards to the criteria/indicators in the following table?” [follows a table of 145 key performance indicators (KPIs) and topics]. Rationale etc. are provided in the Introduction and Methodology section of report.
Seafood Intelligence’s benchmarking report makes the difference between ‘greenwashing’ statements or ‘sustainababble’ – and proactive sustainability reporting. At stake eventually – we believe – lies those Top 100 Seafood firms licence to operate.
Our analysis shows that 15/100 display a “very good level of sustainability reporting”; including [only] 4 firms for which the level of ‘seafood sustainability’ reporting pertaining to their business is deemed “excellent”. This leaves 85% of the industry’s top players clearly wanting in terms of transparency…..
The ‘Top 100’ report’s author monitored all 12*/13 ‘keystone actors’ highlighted in the May 27, 2015 PLOS ONE study which are said to “control 11-16% of the global marine catch (9-13 million tons) and 19-40% of the largest and most valuable stocks” [*one particular firm was not assessed due to its ongoing unstable financial situation; receivership/bankruptcy]. These seafood firms – which due to their individual and collective size “critically” shape the future of marine ecosystems – “have yet to assume this responsibility at the global scale”.
We are of the firm view that Sustainability Reporting is a key contributor and driver to achieving greater ‘Sustainability’. We believe they are linked, though much more work and historical data (environmental, social, economic & financial metrics) are required to decipher precise correlations.
We’ve attempted to put ourselves ‘in the shoes’ of a responsible, ethical, holistically environmentally-minded sustainability-conscious stakeholder (such as a retailer, a consumer, an environmental NGO or a regulator… in the ‘best case scenario’) and attempt to survey the world’s main (Top 100) seafood companies [in FY 2014 sales term, when & if possible]. Basic questions such as ‘where does the [shell]fish from [Company X] come from?’, ‘How is it harvested/produced?’, ‘what ingredients go into seafood products?’, ‘Are the people making that seafood being well treated?’ [ethics] and many etc.
Basically ‘who does what & how?… and how well, when & why?’….
One may think these are ‘simple’ questions which of course all multi-million/billion $$$ companies communicate on… One WILL be surprised…! There are some/few very good reporting/transparent firms… and there are the others: the overwhelming majority of the industry….
Things get trickier when one tries to address seafood sustainability in more details; looking at key performance indicators (KPIs) such as usage of water, energy, GHG emissions (and how they relate to tonnes of production), health & safety parameters, etc… but also how is the environment and biodiversity impacted by the firm’s operations; how environmentally-efficient is said the firm? Does it have policies in place to guarantee responsible use of resources? Are its actions traceable? Can a firm guarantee that its products and activities do not endanger (+/- vulnerable) fishing stocks? Can it guarantee that its products and activities has not put the human rights of workers in its supply chain at risk? Do they even report on ‘basic’ indicators such as marine mammal/wildlife interactions & mortalities? … And what about human fatalities in seafood companies or amongst its suppliers/supply chain… [fishing is one of the world’s riskier industry]? Even ‘sustainable seafood’ comes at a price: which is it?
The very good CSR & Sustainability reporting firms provide all that information, and much more… Alas they constitute a small minority.
The data gathered in Seafood Intelligence’s ‘Top 100 Seafood’ report can assist forward-looking decision-makers in making strategic decisions towards increased CSR, sustainability reporting and ethical policies (and demands for.).
RED LIST of least discussed topics by the seafood industry / world’s Top 100 Seafood companies
As an illustration of the use which can be made of the data contained in the report, Seafood Intelligence has drawn a ‘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. We asked ourselves 28 key questions – among many others – relating to some of the 145 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).
Ironically, Seafood Intelligence was in the process of compiling the table below – which includes GM ingredient transparency & traceability – last week when the U.S. FDA announced [November 19, 2015] it was giving the green light to transgenic GM salmon-maker AquaBounty to commercialise (but ‘not produce’ in the U.S.) in the U.S. its AquAdvantage Salmon (‘AAS’). This rekindled the debate over voluntary/compulsory labelling of GM products and those containing GM products/ingredients. If and when the Pandora Box of GM ingredients-into-food products opens up, it will impact the entire seafood industry worldwide (including – but of course absolutely not restricted to – the feed used for much of Russia/Japan and Alaska’s “wild-caught” hatchery-dependent salmon)…
Communication on the GM ingredients in the feed used to raise aquaculture or wild-catch ‘enhanced’ fish is one of those topics on which ~90% of the seafood industry fails to communicate. It is noteworthy that this ‘GM ingredient’ indicator is relevant to 96 of the Top 100 firms (i.e 96%).
Do also note that in the ‘best case scenario’ only half of these Top 100 seafood firms communicate on these 28 important topics. Eg. Only half actually disclose proactively the origin of the seafood products they are fishing / harvesting / selling / trading… When it comes to more ‘sensitive’ but equally (or more) ‘important’ topics, such as the massive sustainability issue of ‘bycatch’ (the catch of non-targeted species, most often [internationally] discarded); Only 4% of firms communicate on those volumes. Only 9-12% of firms communicate on wildlife interactions, ethnic minorities which can (or not) be impacted by their operations, on the GM ingredients contained (or not) in their products, etc…
One issue which also focused our attention was how the Top 100 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 decisional circles… etc…
These ‘sustainability’ issues – and how to communicate on them – are one of the industry’s main challenges. The cost of non-action and the loss-of-trust generated by an inadequate and un-ambitious ‘sustainability’ vision greatly exceeds – we strongly believe – that of actually addressing such issues. Transparency and stakeholder engagement are more than a fad (no capitals). It can – and increasingly will – also be linked to the most valuable markets’ access. Initiatives by various (eg. European Commission, U.S.) authorities to make (some level/aspects of.) sustainability reporting mandatory are also steadily emerging, with international consequences potentially looming for non-transparent (and practically proactive) firms, industries, and countries…
The ‘Top 100 Seafood’ report constitutes a very useful C-Suite tool for acquiring Seafood Sustainability intelligence, and saving a lot of time… (re. communication; industry overviews, State of World’s Seafood Sustainability Reporting, embarking on Sustainability and +/- GRI G4-indexed reporting, etc…)
This report provides – for the first time ever – a clear vision of where the industry/the Top 100 corporate players stand when it comes to tackling transparently “seafood sustainability”. The use of 145 KPIs against which the communication of each Top 100 company has been benchmarked provides a very practical tool for C-suite executives as they [hopefully, we have some passing doubts for some...] refine their own CSR and sustainability vision & goals. The findings highlight the many topics on which communication and reporting is sorely lacking, identify clear leaders -– globally, by regions & sectors — whose strategies can be emulated (in part or in full), and provide pointers which can be applied to each and all.
An added advantage to choosing the ‘Top 100’ is that – when analysing data – it makes the calculation of percentages a lot easier [at least when the indicators apply to all; not always the case: some are used specifically for 4 segments Aquaculture / Wild-Catch / Fish Feed & Fish Meal & Oil / Processors, Wholesalers & Traders; but most Top 100 companies are involved in more than one segment and the majority of KPIs are common to all]…
By systematically indexing & monitoring all type of Sustainability Reporting and communication in English – what / when & how – for each firm, per industry sector, region etc… Seafood Intelligence was able to highlight some very interesting findings not only per company, but also which countries/continents perform well and provide a useful tool as to how the corporation / industry should address which issues & how; and how & what should stakeholders & competitors also perhaps focus on.
It is also noteworthy that the seafood industry is not alone in facing various ‘sustainability challenges’; nor is it alone in terms of addressing ‘sustainability reporting’ challenges. Failure to act upon many inadequacies may thus also result in loss of market shares against other competing proteins industries, and/or steer the media spotlight more eagerly towards them.
Each Top 100 company is assessed, pro & cons of its communication performances for each of the 145 KPIs are noted, remarks made where warranted. We’ve highlighted – each time we could (and probably/inevitably missed some…) – inaccuracies, statements which could be misrepresented, are or could be misleading or… are simply [sometimes] plainly wrong (one firm writes emphatically in its Sustainability Report that it owns a double-digit shareholding in a company which it says is stock-listed when the said company is not listed…). For each company, some tips are also provided for all the areas on which KPIs and communication is lacking & could/must be improved. We’ve tried to document/reference information/statement for each & all KPI ratings (145 x 3 for each firm), provide links and page numbers to all/most references/statements / claims; so that this information can also enable other firms to compare themselves & their performances with each other.
The methodology adopted for the ranking and benchmarking is clearly explained and enables a level-field for comparing companies. Each company has a file averaging 8-9 pages long (much in Verdana Font size 6). The firm reporting very poorly only have a 2-3 page files, whilst the files of the best performers yield 10-18 pages of multi-indexed and referenced metrics & comments.
Claims of being the ‘Best of’ or ‘World Number 1’ are also duly noted & make an interesting read…
Summary ‘visual’/colour coded tables are provided to facilitate the navigation & comparison between the various seafood players on a wide range of topics, sustainability areas, indicators etc.
CSR & Sustainability reporting according the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) G3 & G4 guidelines has also been scrutinised; and the G3 & G4 indicators & reporting profiles of all companies can be compared thanks to easy to grasp tables; making again this report an ideal tool for all Sustainability & CSR Directors and for those with the ambition to embark onto a long-winded and demanding – but [we are told by the leaders] gratifying – Sustainability Reporting journey.
Finally, the report — beyond the hundreds of company-specific tables/ratings & Top 100 comparative visuals — also provides hundreds of pages of economic & financial information, inspirational and/or noteworthy ‘seafood sustainability’ quotes of the past 18 months, insight from politicians and major events. A comprehensive bibliography pertaining to the ‘seafood sustainability’ scope of the report; etc, etc…
1000+ pages of [ethics & sustainability] Seafood Intelligence…
A must-read for all Sustainability directors and the ones so-inclined!
If you’re interested in getting a copy, drop me an email or call; or go here for more information re. pricing: http://www.seafoodintell.com/?page_id=16
2015 Prices – Sustainability Reporting Benchmarking Reports (Top 35 Farmed Salmon/Top 3 Fish Feed; Top 100 Seafood Firms), 3 options (prices in EUROs/€):
- €1,699for unlimited user licence within same company (exclusive Pdf version) for one of the two reports; stipulate which one.
- €2,750for unlimited user licence within same company (exclusive Pdf version) for the two 2015 reports (Top 35 Salmon/Top 3 Feed + Top 100 Seafood)
- €3,099 forTop 35 Salmon Firms’ Sustainability Reporting 2015 & 2014 editions + Top 100 Seafood Firms’ Sustainability Reporting 2015.
VAT Note: for those located in the EU: prices above + VAT @20% applies, unless your VAT# is provided (you will then be exempted from paying intra-EU VAT [‘Auto Liquidation’]).