Over the past twenty years, the sustainable seafood movement has grown to include seafood industry and conservation leaders who recognize a shared interest in environmental stewardship. More recently, the movement has adapted to new challenges with seafood companies becoming increasingly concerned with traceability and human rights abuses in supply chains. At the Seafood Expo North America this March, Aurora Alifano of FishWise joined a unique panel of representatives from the government, legal, and corporate sectors to discuss industry compliance with trade laws and legislation, particularly those addressing human trafficking and modern slavery. Panelists included Michael Littenberg, Partner at Ropes & Gray LLP; Jack Scott, Head of Sustainability and Contract Manufacturing at Nestlé Purina PetCare; and Ken Kennedy, Senior Policy Advisor with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security. Key recommendations put forth by panelists during the Seafood Expo session “Navigating Seafood Trade and Legislation in 2017” are shared below.
Why should companies invest in social responsibility?
Michael Littenberg, Partner at Ropes & Gray LLP said, “The biggest change we’re seeing is going from thinking of corporate social responsibility as a ‘nice to have’, to now more companies viewing it as central to their businesses. And increasingly, it is also becoming a regulated part of doing business.” The recent Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 gives legal incentive for more U.S. companies to take steps to avoid products associated with human trafficking and forced labor. However, determining the steps that a particular company should take to ensure compliance can be complicated.
How can companies assure they are compliant and exhibit due diligence?
Rather than trying to tackle all compliance issues at once, take a gradual, incremental approach. “The first thing you’ve got to do is get out a supplier expectations letter to establish the non-negotiable expectations for everyone you buy from,” Jack Scott suggested. Companies also need independent verification in their supply chains which may come from certifications, third party audits, or a combination of the two. Ken Kennedy highlighted the importance of having a plan in place before government enforcement action takes place. Companies can start by engaging in a supply chain risk assessment, based on particular products, where they are sourced from, and supplier compliance practices. The Department of Labor’s app, Sweat and Toil, can help identify products and supply chains that may require additional scrutiny. Although the various steps of compliance may seem overwhelming, Michael Littenberg wants companies to know that they can turn to multi-stakeholder initiatives, such as the Seafood Task Force or ISSARA Institute, for help. Once companies begin to take action, disclosure acts such as the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act and the UK Modern Slavery Act serve as opportunities for companies to highlight social responsibility initiatives and improvements within their supply chains.
For more information on reducing human trafficking and labor risks in the seafood industry, please visit to FishWise’s human rights resources page.