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Leon Kaye headshot

Large U.S. Food Service Companies Lag on Sustainable Seafood, Says Greenpeace

By Leon Kaye

According to Greenpeace’s latest annual report on the state of the global fishing industry, the vast majority of the largest food service companies in the U.S. are doing far too little to protect ocean ecosystems and seafood industry workers. In Greenpeace’s eyes, some companies have performed better compared to previous years, but this $700 billion industry has much room for improvement.

In this latest survey, Sodexo (ranked first), Aramark (second) and Compass Group (third) are leaders on sustainable seafood within their sector, and were the only top-15 companies to receive passing scores. But the remaining 12 companies had marks far lower, and from Greenpeace’s point of view, failed miserably.

For those companies that fell far short, a list that includes, Sysco, Performance Food Group and US Foods, the problems are at many levels. Food distributors often face resistance from their customers out of a fear of brand reputation and profits. Traceability is often non-existent. And many within the food service industry ignore the concerns of younger consumers who have made it clear that they are willing to pay a little more for more ethically sourced seafood, whether it is served at a company cafeteria, amusement park or hotel.

Summarizing the problem, Greenpeace concluded its report by saying:

“It is time for the food service industry to refocus its priorities amid declining fish stocks and rampant human rights abuses in the global seafood industry. There is still hope for the oceans if companies are willing to take a long-term outlook on seafood sourcing instead of procuring wild- caught fish from stocks on the verge of collapse or from aquaculture operations with little regard for social or environmental impacts.”

There is some hope, says Greenpeace’s activists and researchers. Thai Union Group, one of the largest seafood suppliers worldwide and owners of the brand Chicken of the Sea, promised earlier this year that it would adopt many of the reforms Greenpeace had urged over the years. The company had long been in the cross-hairs of Greenpeace and other NGOs for alleged human rights violations and overfishing.

Nevertheless, Greenpeace insists the food service industry adopt a broad set of guidelines. They include full transparency and traceability, using technologies like blockchain if necessary; ending “transshipment,” the practice in which ships are resupplied with goods and fuel (also, where fish from dodgy sources are often transferred); welcome third-party observers and auditors across the seafood supply chain; and ramp up efforts to eliminate the use of plastic – one of the most pressing environmental issues plaguing fisheries across all oceans.

Image credit: Garry Knight/Flickr

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye