By Dr. Darian McBain
Thai Union and Greenpeace have arrived at an agreement in line with the company’s efforts to drive positive change across the global seafood industry. The accord once again confirms Thai Union’s commitment to pursue solutions to issues prevalent within the entire fishing industry – not just tuna – as well as to improve the livelihoods of millions of people dependent upon the oceans.
As part of Thai Union’s sustainability strategy, SeaChange®, the company has made significant and far-reaching commitments to support current best practice fisheries, improve other fisheries, reduce illegal and unethical practices from global supply chains, and bring more responsibly-caught tuna to key markets.
After the agreement was announced, Bunny McDiarmid, Greenpeace’s International Executive Director, stated:
“This marks huge progress for our oceans and marine life, and for the rights of people working in the seafood industry. If Thai Union implements these reforms, it will pressure other industry players to show the same level of ambition and drive much needed change. Now is the time for other companies to step up, and show similar leadership.”
The agreement is yet another example of how Thai Union has fully embraced its role as a leader for positive change as one of the largest seafood companies in the world.
Changing Seafood for Good
Even before this agreement with Greenpeace, Thai Union has been at the forefront of the seafood industry as a leading agent of change.
That’s because the world faces a range of sustainability issues – from pressing human rights, unsafe migration and work conditions to large and looming environmental and climate change threats – and the action the seafood industry takes today will determine much about the world humanity will inhabit tomorrow.
So, in light of this responsibility, Thai Union outlined in December 2016 a commitment as part of its SeaChange® sustainability strategy to ensure 100 percent of its branded tuna is sustainably sourced with a goal of achieving a minimum of 75 percent by 2020. Thai Union is investing $90m in initiatives that will increase the supply of sustainable tuna. This includes establishing 11 new fishery improvement projects around the world to move them toward Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification.
This is crucial since MSC certification is widely recognized as being the best mark of seafood sustainability. It uses scientific evidence to assess fisheries based on three criteria – sustainable fish stocks, minimal environmental impacts, and effective management of the fishery. And in recognition of the company’s sustainability efforts, Thai Union brand John West was recently named by MSC as its United Kingdom canned brand of the year in recognition of the absolute number of MSC labeled canned products John West has sold in the UK. Furthermore, Thai Union launched its first 100 percent MSC certified brand in Germany this year with Harvesta.
Additionally, Thai Union recently signed a groundbreaking pledge as part of its membership in the Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS), committing to improve operations as well as challenge the rest of the seafood industry to follow, all with the goal of helping the world achieve the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
And at a World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting last month during the UN Ocean Conference in New York City, Thai Union committed to the WEF Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration. The Declaration also supports the SDGs.
A Sustainable, Transparent Future for Seafood
Thai Union values transparency and plans to highlight details of this agreement in the next year’s annual Sustainability Report, which will look back at the company’s achievements in 2017. The company’s previous report, Thai Union Sustainability Report 2016, was issued in June.
Importantly, to ensure Greenpeace and Thai Union remain on the same page, both parties have agreed to meet every six months to assess the agreement’s progress and implementation. Also, after 2018, an independent third-party will review progress to-date on the commitments made in the agreement.
Looking ahead, Thai Union will continue to make progress and maintain an unceasing focus on leveraging its leadership position to help solve the sustainability challenges that confront the fishing industry.
Image Caption: Darian McBain (left), PhD., Thai Union’s global director for sustainable development, carries a “torch” for sustainability. Also pictured are Khun Anchalee Pipattanawattanakul (right), Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, and Khun Tara Buakamsri (rear), Thailand Country Director for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.