In 2011, WWF and Coles formed a partnership to improve the sustainability of the company’s seafood supply. The consequences for marine life and the market could be profound: Coles sources millions of dollars’ worth of seafood, including from around the Great Barrier Reef, and is also a major buyer of tuna and farmed fish.
Coles aims to have no high ecological risk products in their seafood supply chain by 2015. That means all Coles seafood will be Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified, or in a formal programme to meet MSC/ASC standards, or have low or medium ecological risk by 2015. Coles plans to transform all medium ecological risk products by 2020.
To transform products, Coles will support the development of fisheries improvement projects and encourage a number of products into the MSC and ASC certification process.
Coles and WWF worked together to present this vision to suppliers and explain what it meant for them. “We got everyone together to announce our plans, explain the reasoning behind it and the benefits,” says Jackie Healing, who manages responsible sourcing at Coles. “Everyone was very supportive.”
Effectively, anyone who wants to supply Coles’ branded seafood and fresh deli products will need to get on board. Coles and WWF are working with fisheries and aquaculture operations on improvement plans to help them meet a responsible sourcing standard.
OpportunityFor seafood suppliers, this is also an opportunity. “Experience elsewhere around the world has shown that once the retail sector makes commitments such as Coles has, pressure is applied onto producers to conform,” says Guy Leyland, MSC Industry Project Leader of the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC). “But what is also evident is that these shifts can result in the formation of very strong commercial partnerships with producers through the supply chain.”
Seafood is an important part of the economy in the state of Western Australia, with over 40 different commercial fisheries worth some AU$400 million (US$375 million) per year. Recognizing the growing market for sustainable seafood, in September 2012 the state government pledged AU$14.5 million (US$13 million) to support all commercial fisheries to achieve MSC certification.
“The MSC initiative provides a means for producers to have independent validation that they’re fishing sustainably,” says Guy. “It’s an important market opportunity for Western Australia’s fisheries.”
Ripple EffectThe incentive for suppliers to prove that their fish are sourced responsibly has helped to improve traceability and communications throughout the supply chain. And the partnership with Coles has opened other doors for WWF, leading to strategic partnerships with two of its major suppliers: Simplot and Tassal, both key players in the Australian seafood sector.
Simplot’s John West brand is Australia’s leading canned tuna label. In 2012, Simplot committed to work with WWF to source all John West products responsibly by 2015 from MSC certified fisheries or ASC certified seafood farms where possible, or from other responsible producers as advised by WWF, where certified products are not available.
Tassal, Australia’s largest producer and exporter of Atlantic salmon, is working with WWF to lead the industry toward more responsible production. In April 2014, Tassal’s Macquarie Harbour growing site became the first aquaculture operation in the Asia-Pacific region to achieve ASC certification for salmon, helping to protect important marine habitats and wildlife around Tasmania. And in November 2014, the company obtained ASC certification for all of its salmon farms. This in turn will affect Tassal’s feed suppliers: salmon aquaculture is a major consumer of fish meal and fish oil, accounting for around a third of the global wild-caught fish harvest. ASC standards demand that fish feed comes from responsible sources.
“The partnership with WWF has changed our way of working, and we hope it will give us a competitive advantage,” says Jackie Healing of Coles. “We know our supply chain very well now, and customers can be confident they’re buying great quality and value seafood that’s been caught in a responsible way where indicated in our stores.”
Better Production for a Living Planet Series
WWF-Coles Conservation Partnership
The partnership focuses on improving traceability across Coles’ entire range of seafood products, sourcing more responsibly and driving improvements in fisheries management. Coles has also signed up to WWF’s Global Seafood Charter.
Coles´ responsible seafood sourcing efforts focus on:
Investing in WWF marine conservation
projects, as well as fisheries/
aquaculture improvement projects
Improving seafood sourcing practices (with a preference for MSC-certified fisheries and ASC-certified farmed fish)
Engaging with industry representatives, seafood producers and fishing regulatory agencies in Australia and around the world to improve the environmental performance of fisheries and farms from which Coles sources its seafood.
PROGRESS TO DATE
- 99% of sustainability assessments completed for Coles’ seafood product range, using the WWF-Australia Ecological Sustainability Evaluation of Seafood (ESES) tool
- 37% of Coles’ products were categorised as low ecological risk under the ESES
- 2% of products are MSC certified
- 1% of products are ASC certified