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Traitor Joe–Will He Get Trader Joe’s to Change Direction?

| Monday July 6th, 2009 | 0 Comments

traitor-joes.jpg

By Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact
A new report by GreenPeace, Carting Away the Oceans, scores major supermarkets sustainable seafood sales and sourcing policies.
While some companies were rewarded for their progress since the last report, others including Trader Joe’s, are called out for their lack of progress.
Trader Joe’s is now the target of a major Greenpeace campaign in part because they remain the largest U.S. grocer operating on a nation-wide scale that refuses to substantively respond to Greenpeace inquiries regarding its seafood sustainability policies and practices.


We’re #1: Wegmans
Wegmans, the #1 ranking company, wins points for having a seafood sourcing policy, actively seeking out products that have been certified by bodies such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and also scored high in the category of initiatives for supporting the “Common Vision for Environmentally Sustainable Seafood,” an initiative of the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions, which aims to build an active partnership between conservation organizations and seafood retailers in support of achieving sustainable fisheries. They also scored points for transparency and labeling.
Yet despite all these positive aspects, they still sell 15 of 22 red list seafoods, including Chilean Sea Bass.
In comparison, Trader Joe’s does not have a sustainable seafood policy, does not participate in any sustainable seafood initiatives and was dinged for lack of labels and transparency. But like Wegmans, they also sell 15 of 22 red list seafoods.
The Greenpeace press release says,

Scoring a measly one point out of ten and placing 17th out of 20 companies, Trader Joe’s is the worst national retailer appraised under Carting Away the Oceans (the three chains which somehow managed to perform even more poorly — Meijer, HEB, and Price Chopper — are all regional.) In spite of an 18-month period of attempted cooperative engagement by Greenpeace, Trader Joe’s continues to operate with sickening disregard for the sanctity of our oceans.

According to the report, Jon Basalone, Senior Vice President of Marketing, responded to Greenpeace’s concerns by responding, “We simply listen to our customers” when it comes to deciding how to do its business and determine what it sells.
Traitor Joe’s Campaign
Because Trader Joe’s dug their head into the sand and refused to participate in a real dialogue on the issue, Greenpeace is doing what they do best. Threatening their brand value with a campaign, Traitor Joes.
In addition to the web site, with some silly videos and the ability to send Trader Joe’s a message, they have also set up a humorous Twitter profile – the misbehaving pirate already has 500 followers after only a few days.
Several folks have done a great job of reporting on the campaign, including Fast Company and GreenBiz.com.
Will Traitor Joe bring change?
Will a campaign against Trader Joe’s move them to take action? Seems doubtful unless they hear from hundreds of thousands of their customers.
And even if Trader Joe’s takes action – develops a policy, joins some of the key initiatives and begins to label their fish, it is not clear that this will result in a real change in the amount of red listed fish they sell.
Seems like creating real change will require more than Traitor Joe.
It will require serious consumer education, international policies, building the markets for more sustainable fish and finding a way to approach Trader Joe’s so they are open to collaborating. Perhaps a campaign like Traitor Joe will push them to work with a more collaborative NGO, such as Environmental Defense Center.
Or, perhaps seeing their competition make the necessary changes will move them. According to a recent article from Orato, peer pressure and environmentalism are linked.
***
Deborah Fleischer is the founder and president of Green Impact, providing strategic environmental consulting services to mid-sized companies and NGOs who want to launch a new green initiative or cross-sector collaboration, but lack the in-house capacity to get it up and running. She brings expertise in sustainability strategy, program development, stakeholder partnerships and written communications. And you can follow her occasional tweet at GreenImpact.


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