Responsible Buying Takes Commitment, Research and Outside Help

Sustainable seafood is an ethic, a market-trend, an ideal, a movement — and an often-misused buzzword. In its strictest sense, the word means farmed or wild seafood harvested without harm to its population or habitat or to any other species in its ecosystem. 

Translating this simple-sounding concept into purchasing decisions is a tall order, especially for bigvolume, price-sensitive buyers. 

Yet, many large-volume seafood buyers are doing just that, because sustainability makes good business sense on a number of fronts. 

Wal-Mart, Ahold USA (owner of Giant, Stop & Shop and Tops grocery chains), Wegmans and Whole Foods Market are among the supermarket companies that have made an effort to adopt sustainable-seafood purchasing policies, as have foodservice companies Darden Restaurants, Legal Sea Foods, Compass Group and Aramark. 

These companies understand that protecting fisheries and ecosystems now will aid future productivity, ensuring a consistent seafood supply for restaurant menus and retail cases. 

Also driving the sustainability effort is consumers’ increasing interest in where their food comes from and whether it is safe for them and for the environment. 

Interest in sustainability has been a big-picture trend in the food industry, so much so that “sustainablelocal- organic” has been dubbed “the culinary trinity.” 

This trend is not lost on seafood manufacturers, who have watched sales rise for seafood products whose labels make ethical claims. 

But overuse of the term sustainability sets the stage for “greenwashing,” or misrepresenting products as eco-friendly. Consumers are increasingly savvy about “greenwashing,” so don’t be caught in unintended fraud — and don’t fall victim yourself. 

Step by Step 

Sustainable purchasing is not easy; it takes time to complete an investigation and make a commitment. 

In the process, ask many questions of your supplier, farmer or fisherman. Know what you’re getting, where it’s from and how it was Sustainability raised or harvested. 

When creating a sustainable seafood policy, keep in mind that change doesn’t happen overnight. Aramark estimates its shift to sustainable sources of seafood will be a 10-year process. 

How best to balance the sustainable- seafood ethic with your business’s supply needs is an internal decision. Your company also must decide what goals can be set and achieved by a given timeframe. 

You may want to seek help from a third-party source like the Marine Stewardship Council or the New England Aquarium