Finalist, Seafood Champion Awards Vision Category
In an example of successful collaboration, the Sustainable Seafood Coalition’s 23 members worked together for three years to find a common solution for a more responsible and sustainable seafood supply chain. This culminated in a voluntary code of conduct on sourcing and on using labels that are clear, consistent and meaningful to consumers. As most SSC members are direct competitors, the very process of negotiating these codes is remarkable – a “miracle”, in the words of one stakeholder.
SSC has found that claims on fish and seafood are already much more consistent with the requirements in the labeling code even though the implementation period is still ongoing. These outcomes show that the SSC has brought about some huge behavioral changes in the U.K. market.
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We would like to nominate the Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC), as an organisation, for the Award for Vision. ClientEarth, along with several businesses, co-founded the SSC in 2011. While first initiated in the UK, the model created by the SSC holds great potential for wider replication. The vision of the SSC, which now brings together almost 75% of the UK retail market for seafood, as well as suppliers, brands and foodservice, is that all fish and seafood sold in the UK be from sustainable sources.
The SSC addresses a critical gap in providing minimum standards with a view to level the playing field on seafood sustainability in a way that is supported by industry and being both environmentally and legally robust. These ensure consistency and minimum criteria are available to the market in areas where there is insufficient, or no, legislation. We have defined environmental sustainability for fish and seafood. This means that voluntary claims – about responsibility and sustainability -. This is unique to the UK supply chain and will be an important tool in involving the public to participate in the demand for sustainable seafood.
In an example of successful collaboration, the SSC’s 23 members worked together for three years to find a common solution for a more responsible and sustainable seafood supply chain, building trust and commitment in the process. This culminated in the agreement of two voluntary codes of conduct (the sourcing and labelling codes), launched in September 2014. As most SSC members are direct competitors and represent a large share of the UK seafood industry, the very process of negotiating the detail of the codes to ensure industry buy-in and their legal and scientific credibility, makes the SSC all the more remarkable, and visionary – a “miracle”, in the words of one stakeholder.
The seafood supply chain is striving to improve the way we work together, both in the UK and globally. The SSC allows the member businesses to meet in a way that promotes pre-competitive sharing and finding solutions to work together towards a more sustainable future. We have several aims to help achieve our vision and will continue to work together on new and relevant issues to seafood sustainability.
Since the launch of the codes there has been considerable interest in, and positive feedback on, the SSC, including from both NGOs and industry stakeholders globally. The Marine Conservation Society has added SSC membership as a point-gainer in their supermarket survey; other NGOs have informed us that the Codes support their own work with business partners. Additionally, we have found that claims on fish and seafood are already much more consistent with the requirements in the labelling code despite the implementation period is still ongoing. These outcomes show that the SSC has brought about some huge behavioural changes in the UK market and is gaining wider interest. This is an excellent achievement, particularly given the initial skepticism from external stakeholders as to the success of an initiative of this kind.
What local and/or international partners does the Sustainable Seafood Coalition work with?
The members include supermarkets (Co-operative Food, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose); Restaurants and fish friers (Feng Sushi, Fuller’s, Harbour Lights Falmouth, River Cottage); Brands, processors and suppliers to retail (Birds Eye UK, Lyons Seafoods, New England Seafood Limited, The Saucy Fish Co. / Icelandic Group UK Ltd, Young’s Seafood Limited); and suppliers to foodservice (Direct Seafoods, Le Lien Ltd, M&J Seafood).
How well does the Sustainable Seafood Coalition’s work demonstrate the qualities of the category?
The SSC’s voluntary codes of conduct are globally unique. They are a collaboration across the whole of the seafood supply chain in the UK to create minimum standards for responsible sourcing and harmonised environmental labelling. The concept behind the SSC – that all aspects of the supply chain can work together to improve environmental sustainability – is visionary and has resulted in a very strong group with a lot of trust built during the process.
In what ways has the Sustainable Seafood Coalition positively affected, or mitigated negative impacts of, the seafood industry?
The SSC has set minimum standards for the responsible sourcing of fish and seafood. The codes commit members to taking a risk assessment approach to sourcing, and to actively move fisheries and farms towards sustainability if they are not already there. The SSC members also commit to only using two types of claim (around sustainability and responsibility) and we have already found these codes have influenced the wider supply chain even outside the membership.
In what way does the Sustainable Seafood Coalition’s story inspire others and communicate successes achieved in sustainable seafood?
The SSC is an example of best practice in the seafood industry. This is an example from the UK – but the concept is replicable in other nations or even globally. Agreeing on what environmental sustainability looks like for fish was a challenging process. Now that the SSC has agreed two codes, we hope to continue working on issues that affect sustainability and improve on the work we have achieved. Knowing that working together on pre-competitive issues is inspiring to other supply chains as it allows a greater change through collective impact.
How would the Sustainable Seafood Coalition’s work serve as a replicable model for others who want to have a similar impact?
The SSC is based on collective impact and its strength is in its membership. Making agreements across the supply chain can be a challenging process and the trust that is built can result in some huge impacts on the water. We hope this will help work towards the vision that all fish and seafood sold in the UK will be from sustainable sources – but that vision could be expanded to the global seafood supply chain.
An Interview with Katie Miller of the Sustainable Seafood Coalition
- Website: www.sustainableseafoodcoalition.org