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FishWise at Ceres Conference 2017

Created on Monday, 19 June 2017

From left to right: Panelists Mariah Boyle, Jonas Kron, and Michael Conathan.

In late April, FishWise’s Traceability Division Director Mariah Boyle attended the 2017 Ceres Conference in San Francisco. Bringing together more than 600 investors and company leaders, the two-day conference focuses on corporate sustainability and catalyzing change. Mariah presented at the breakout session Is Your Product Against the Law? Insights on Illegality in Supply Chains that looked at the illegal activity in seafood and forest-related products, the potential human rights abuses that can go hand in hand with such activities, and the attention that is needed at all levels of supply chains to address these issues. Moderated by David Bennell, Program Director for Food & Capital Markets Initiative at Ceres, Mariah was joined by panelists Michael Conathan, Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress, and Jonas Kron, Senior Vice President and Director of Shareholder Advocacy at Trillium Asset Management.

Bringing her expertise in seafood supply chains, Mariah provided an overview of the different steps within these chains and how this complexity can obscure potential illegal activities and human rights abuses. Some 660 to 820 million people (9-12% of the global population) are dependent on the seafood sector for their livelihoods, according to UN estimates. This, coupled with the fact that seafood is among the most traded food commodities, shows how important it is to improve the legality and sustainability related to seafood.

Fortunately, resources exist for investors and companies that want to tackle these issues. Mariah presented an overview of next steps, including a robust sustainability framework and FishWise’s white papers. The Common Vision for Sustainable Seafood, created by the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions, is a realistic six-step process to develop and implement a sustainable seafood policy. Additionally, for newcomers and those already invested alike, FishWise’s white papers on social responsibility and traceability in seafood supply chains provide comprehensive guidance on guidance and next steps companies can take to improve their work on these issues.

“It’s obvious from this conference that investors are bearing in mind the environmental, social and governance issues in supply chains,” Mariah said. “Similar to sustainability issues like climate change, we must take a long-term, or multi-generational view, to this topic.”

However, Mariah stresses that waiting to get started is not an option. She suggests that investors engage with companies, ask about the details of their sustainable seafood policies – what their time-bound commitments look like, if they are reporting publicly on progress, and disclosing information about their supply chains. Ask what due diligence measures they have in place to reduce the risk of illegality, and encourage those that are on the right path. Doing so can catalyze further change, and encourage more companies to do the same, working toward a more just, socially and environmentally sustainable future.