Sustainability Commitment

The Sustainable Seafood Commitment Template will walk you through a series of questions in order to help you create a sustainable seafood goal and turn it into a time-bound commitment. 

Companies should set commitments that address environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and seafood traceability. These are typically written as separate commitments. This document will guide a company through the process of generating an environmental commitment then outline the best practices and resources to repeat the process for social responsibility and traceability. The Commitment Template and Sustainable Seafood Program Brainstorm document were created to accommodate as many sizes and types of businesses as possible. If a question doesn’t apply to your business just move to the next one. 

While completing your Sustainable Seafood Commitment Template, please refer to the instructions listed below. Instructions have been broken out into five separate sections for ease of use.

Disclaimer: This template is meant to serve only as a guide to drafting a commitment. It is the responsibility of those generating commitments to ensure their commitment is accurate, appropriate, and relevant to their business.

 

Template Instructions - click each section to expand. 

Section 1: Environmental Goal and Timeline

First, write down the results from your product assessment. If you haven't run an assessment yet, you can do so by entering your product information and then running an assessment from "My Dashboard".

Next, list a draft environmental goal. This goal states how you would like your baseline assessment numbers to improve.

This should be a goal that names a specific type of product and your sustainability goals, building upon what you learned in the Baseline Assessment. Throughout this worksheet you will add components to this goal to make it into a more robust commitment like this example from the Common Vision:

By X date, transition 100 percent of fresh and frozen wild-caught and farmed (or aquaculture) products sold in store to Marine Stewardship Council or Aquaculture Stewardship Council certified; Seafood Watch green or yellow rated where certified product isn’t available; or in a comprehensive FIP.

This goal is important as it serves as the main focus of your sustainable seafood program.

Examples of environmental goals:

  • To sell only sustainable shelf-stable tuna.
  • To improve our sales of fresh sustainable seafood from 25% to 50% by volume.

On a related note: While you draft your goals, read our Learn page on improving or avoiding unsustainable seafood (link). There may be seafood that is too high risk to warrant improvements, too costly or time-intensive to improve, or you may be selling such small amounts that it is not worth the effort of improving. While we typically recommend trying to improve a supply first, these are circumstances when improvements may not make sense. Seeking out a more sustainable source of the same species, or a similar species, may be the best option in some circumstances.

Decide which publicly available standard(s) you will use for the product(s) listed in your goal:

There are many types of public standards for sustainable seafood and the main two types are ratings and certifications. To determine which is a good fit for your business, we recommend four steps:

  • Review our Understanding Seafood Ratings and Seafood Certifications section on our Learn page (link) and decide which makes the most sense for your products.
    • For example, you may find the added traceability benefits of a certification to be important to your business.
  • Review what standards already exist for the product(s) as outlined in your FishChoice Baseline Assessment.
    • If a certification or rating already exists for a product it may make sense to utilize that standard and not re-invent the wheel (if it is a good fit for your business).
  • Consider the needs and goals of your customers or suppliers.
    • If you have a customer or supplier that has committed to a specific standard, you may want to use that same standard as your goal as well.
    • If you want to communicate sustainability on packaging to a consumer, you may want to choose a certification that has an eco-label.
  • Review what must be in place to claim your product as sustainable using a rating or certification.
    • You must comply with certain requirements when making a sustainability claim about your product using a public standard. These requirements help ensure that claims are accurate and consistent. Review our website (link) to determine which are a good match for your business and understand what steps you would need to take in order to make sustainability claims.

Based on the four questions above, list all ratings and certifications that you want to include in your goal:

Example: The marine stewardship council (MSC) certification might make the most sense for a business selling private label tuna in a can. The company may want the benefit of an eco-label that can be applied to its packaging and the added assurance of the chain of custody certification for its supply chain.

Example: Intercity Packers Ltd., formerly known as Albion, is a distributor in Canada and lists six public standards that meet its sustainability objectives.

How will you measure progress towards your goal?

Example: Analyze volume of sales once a quarter by updating our FishChoice Assessment online.

What is the timeline of the goal?

What year will you reach it, will there be annual benchmarks?

Example: Our goal is for 100% of our products to meet our public sustainability standards in 18 months with a check-in on progress quarterly.

Best practice is that this goal is public, measurable, references publicly available standards, and has a specified timeframe.

Section 2: Commitment Scope

Will the environmental goal cover all of your markets and segments or only specific markets or segments?

A small or specialized company might want to write a commitment to cover all of their business, while other companies may want to write specific commitments to address different geographies or banners of their business.

Example: A large company selling seafood in many countries may choose to set a more ambitious timeline for the market where they only sell 3 products that are very close to meeting their environmental goal as opposed to another market that may have 100 products that are further from meeting their environmental goal.

Best practice is that commitments cover all markets and segments, but it is appropriate to be specific when needed.

What categories of seafood will this environmental goal apply to?

Will it apply to fresh, frozen, shelf-stable, deli/prepared, sushi, pet food, supplements, other (specific contracts, etc.)? Wild and farmed? A certain species or all species? Private label, national brands, and unbranded products?

It is important to consider all combinations of the above categories when brainstorming this question.

Example: You may not need your environmental goal for farmed seafood to be applied to shelf-stable products if the only shelf-stable product you sell is wild-caught tuna. Similarly, a company may want to set different commitments for private label tuna, where it has more control, than its national brand tuna. Limiting a goal to certain categories, or staggering the timeframes of the categories, may help to keep your program and commitments ambitious and achievable.

Best practice is that a commitment addresses all categories of seafood. However, it is appropriate to tailor commitments for specific categories, as needed.

Section 3: Progress

A comprehensive commitment includes supporting elements such as plans for communication and advocacy. Consider the following five questions in relation to your seafood commitment and sustainability program.

How, when and where will you report on progress against your seafood commitment(s)?

This can be as simple as publishing an update on your website, or as in-depth as a section in a company’s annual report.

Example: McDonald’s has a fish sustainability progress update on its website.

Best practice is to report publicly on progress within one year, with metrics on the proportion of seafood that meets the commitment, and demonstrates increased progress over the previous report.

How will you share information with customers about your sustainable seafood commitment or sustainable seafood issues?

This may include messaging in-store, on packaging, on a website, via social media, or other avenues.

Example: Blue Apron outlines their efforts on their website and mentions seafood sustainability in their advertisements.

Best practice is to share information with customers about your sustainable seafood commitment and other sustainable seafood issues.

Will you make your seafood sources public?

Companies can choose to publish a list of their seafood sources themselves or use a website designed for this purpose such as the Ocean Disclosure Project. Companies that opt to join FishChoice's Partner Program also have the option to upload a commitment to their public profile.

Best practice is to make seafood sources public (species, gear/production type, harvest/production area, and certification/FIP status).

How will you support fishery and aquaculture improvement projects? (if included in your commitment)

Learn more about getting involved in fishery improvement projects and aquaculture improvement projects. Support can include funding and participating in improvement projects along with encouraging supplier participation and public reporting by the project. The Common Vision has a good introduction on how to incorporate improvement projects into a sustainable seafood program in their Common Vision.

Example: North Atlantic Inc. highlights the details of its improvement project work on its website.

Best practice is to fund and participate in workplan activities of FIPs/AIPs, request your suppliers to participate in the project, and encourage FIPs to participate in reporting on www.FisheryProgress.org.

How will you engage in advocacy issues relating to your goals?

Advocating can take many forms such as submitting a public comment on a proposed rule, providing feedback to government officials, and voicing public support for reform. Companies can advocate on their own and share their efforts as Hy-Vee has done on its website. Companies can also advocate along with others in trade associations or coalitions, like these chefs in Portland.

Best practice is to advocate for improvements in environmental sustainability, social responsibility and traceability at the state, national and international levels. Best practice is also to encourage a slow or stalled improvement project to make progress or a rated or certified fishery or aquaculture unit to improve.

Section 4: Draft Commitment

Now that you have answered all of the questions above you can build your final environmental commitment. Use your responses to modify the generic commitment below and add a few supporting sentences to address the five progress questions above in Section 3.

Sample Commitment: By (date), transition (X) percent of (categories) (wild or farmed) products sold in (markets and segments) to (certification, rating, or other standard).

If you decided to write specific commitments to address different seafood categories or markets remember to include all of your commitments here. For example, Albertsons Companies has published several commitments that address different seafood categories.

Finalize your commitment

In order to finalize your commitment(s) we recommend three steps:

  1. Compare your commitment to the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solution’s Common Vision for Sustainable Seafood to ensure all recommendations of the Common Vision are addressed.
  2. Compare your commitment to those of other companies to ensure there are no gaps in content. Example commitments are hyperlinked throughout this document and on the Learn portion of our website.
  3. Run through our Sustainable Seafood Program Brainstorm to ensure your commitment is a good fit for your business and will benefit your customers.

Make it public

It is important that sustainable seafood commitments are made public to hold companies accountable for their progress and ensure their efforts are recognized.

Some companies will choose to make a commitment public right away. Others will first share the commitment with their supply chains, solicit feedback, and begin implementing improvements before sharing their commitment publicly. While it is important that commitments are made public eventually, each company should decide on the best timing for its business.

Section 5: Traceability and Social Responsibility

The same process that is outlined above for environmental goals should be conducted again for traceability and social responsibility in order to generate commitments on these topics.

The details of a commitment to traceability and social responsibility will vary based on the company and the seafood it sells. The good news is that there are new resources to help companies learn more about these topics and decide which improvements are needed for their supply chains. Return to our Learn section to review the traceability and social responsibility resources which will help companies identify and implement improvements for their businesses. 

Example: Walmart's Human Right Commitment

Example: Thai Union and WWF's Progress Report on Trace Efforts

Social Responsibility Commitment

In addition to the best practices outlined in the environmental section of this template, specific social responsibility commitment best practices include:

Best practice is that a social responsibility commitment references publicly available standard(s) (e.g. UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, ILO 188 Work in Fishing Convention, etc.).

Best practice is to publish a social responsibility action plan. This plan should be timebound, public, and list actions the company will take to identify and address high-risk areas and implement due diligence measures.

Best practice is to publish a supplier code of conduct that addresses forced labor, human trafficking, and child labor. In addition, the code should extend to other critical human rights elements in all three pillars of the Monterey Framework. It's important to note that employers should also address this issue, in addition to the suppliers they source from.

Social Responsibility Commitment Progress

Social responsibility commitment progress should be specific and communicated in the following ways:

Best practice is to report publicly on progress within one year and demonstrate increased progress over the previous report.

Best practice is to report publicly every year on the outcomes of data collection and risk assessments (e.g., high-risk supply chains, specific suppliers, etc.)

Best practice is to report publicly on process and outcomes of verification and/or improvement of working conditions (e.g., audit results, certifications, challenges identified and action taken with suppliers to support improvements, etc.), including public evidence of incorporating worker engagement mechanisms into verification efforts and efforts to support workers’ collective bargaining/freedom of association.

Traceability Commitment

In addition to the best practices outlined in the environmental section of this template, specific traceability commitment best practices include:

Best practice is that a public traceability commitment outlines the level of traceability (e.g., to the vessel or feed source) and purpose of traceability (e.g., to inform an assessment of risk for IUU or human rights abuses).

Best practice is to publish a traceability action plan. This plan should be timebound, public, and list actions the company is taking to ensure all products are traceable back to legal sources (i.e. vessels or farms) and that aquaculture inputs such as hatchery stock and feed are also legal and traceable. This plan should also list the actions a company is taking to verify source information and full-chain traceability by researching high-risk items, conducting traceability desk audits, or pursuing third-party traceability certifications.

Traceability Commitment Progress

Traceability commitment progress should be specific and communicated in the following ways:

Best practice is to report publicly on progress within one year and demonstrate increased progress over the previous report including evidence of progress towards digitizing and standardizing data and progress towards full-chain traceability.