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Costco, Sodexo Make Sustainable Seafood Pledges

Food giants Sodexo and Costco have both committed to improve the sustainability of their seafood.

Sodexo, the $21 billion food service company, has announced a goal for all its contracted seafood to be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) by 2015.

Under the plan, Sodexo will review all wild caught and farm raised seafood purchases and set short, medium and long-term goals with its contracted seafood vendors.

The target is part of Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow sustainability plan. The Better Tomorrow Plan makes 14 commitments to the environment, health, wellness and community support.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace has announced that after eight months of pressure, the world’s ninth-largest retailer has agreed to remove over a dozen seafood items from sale until the company can find an MSC-certified option. Costco will place a hold on selling Atlantic cod, Atlantic halibut, bluefin tuna, Chilean sea bass, Greenland halibut, grouper, monkfish, orange roughy, redfish, shark, swordfish, skates and rays.

Costco is also in the process of shifting towards more sustainable sources of tuna for fresh, frozen and canned varieties of the fish, Greenpeace said.

But Greenpeace has also indicated that it doesn’t think MSC certification is a high enough bar. Richard Page, a Greenpeace oceans campaigner, said last month that decisions by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to certify some fisheries “seriously undermine” the group’s credibility.

Writing about CostCo’s commitment, Greanpeace seafood campaigner Casson Trenor said, “This is certainly not perfect—we’d like to see these unsustainable options off the shelves until the populations recover—but it’s a major step forward.”

Costco will work with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to examine its remaining wild-caught species and determine the best way of moving to sustainable alternatives, Greenpeace said.

Costco and WWF have had a partnership since July of last year. Its first goal was to gauge the adherence of Thai-based shrimp farmers to draft standards drawn up by the Shrimp Aquaculture Dialogue, WWF said, and then to develop a strategy to guide those suppliers to full compliance.

Other major fish sellers that have recently announced sustainability efforts include Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, which, like Safeway and Target, announced an in-house sustainability rating system.

Last April Greenpeace released its annual seafood sustainability scorecard, showing that half of the leading supermarket chains in the U.S. received passing scores for the first time. Target won first place, Wegmans second and Whole Foods third.

British supermarket the Co-Op stopped selling all fish on the MCS’s list of Fish to Avoid in 2009, and ranked first out of eight retailers in the MCS’s supermarket survey.

For its own fish initiative, Sodexo will work with non-profit NSF Surefish, which issues MSC Chain of Custody certifications and audits facilities against the BAP standards. Sodexo said it will also partner with CleanFish, which brings artisan fishermen’s products to market under transparent brands. CleanFish was named “Responsibility Pioneer” by TIME magazine and was a recipient of Food & Wine magazine’s “Eco-Ocean Award.”

Food service sales and marketing company Koch Foods will also work with Sodexo to launch the program. Koch Foods recently conducted a training session to help Sodexo with customer service in time for the launch.

“By taking a leadership role in creating a better environment through 100 percent contracted sustainable seafood sourcing, Sodexo will actively help to accelerate a global shift to sustainable fishing practices,” said Kerry Coughlin, Americas director of the MSC.

“Sodexo touches the lives of over 10 million people daily,” said Ann Oka, senior vice president, supply management at Sodexo.  “We believe our Sustainable Seafood Initiative is unparalleled and can truly make a positive impact on the health of the world’s oceans and fisheries, as well as providing consumers a better choice in seafood.”

Sodexo’s revenues top 15 billion euro worldwide and $8 billion in the U.S. Globally it has 380,000 employees on 34,000 sites and serves 50 million consumers a day.

Picture credit: joost j. bakker

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