Published 1 year ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Image: Quang Nguyen Vinh/Pexels
/ This article is sponsored by
The Bumble Bee Seafood Company.
As anyone who works on sustainable supply chains knows, getting transparency and/or certification on the final pieces can often be the most difficult. Bumble
Bee’s goals will require ensuring better practices around catch reporting and verification of data, and working with and training consultants and vessel operators.
In its latest sustainability
, The Bumble Bee Seafood Company has
announced a notable increase, in just a year, in the fish it sources coming from
third-party-verified sustainable sources.
“The numbers tend to speak for themselves — the approximate 30 percent change
signals that there is a material difference year on year in what our customers
and consumers can view as sustainable sourcing of products from Bumble Bee,”
Ray Clarke, Bumble Bee’s VP of fisheries management & government affairs,
told Sustainable Brands™. “More and more of our products are being produced
in a manner that is viewed by an independent assessor as sustainable.”
Last year, 42 percent of the company’s seafood was externally recognized as
sustainable or moving toward certification; this year, it's 71 percent. Of
course, this growth is not by accident, but due to the company’s top-down
commitment to change. Back in 2020, Bumble Bee launched its Seafood
Future platform, which includes broad goals
of protecting and nurturing the ocean and those who depend on it. With a set of
clear, actionable objectives set around three pillars — fish, ocean and people —
it has led the company to expand its efforts around sustaining fish stocks,
eliminating plastic waste, ocean regeneration, labor practices and community
“Protecting our ocean is the right thing to do for the planet, the billions of
people who rely on seafood for sustenance and for the long-term success of our
business,” Clarke says.
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So, how did Bumble Bee accomplish this, particularly in what is recognized as a
supply chain? Through partnerships and the use of data and technology. More
recently, the company has explored electronic monitoring to collect fishing data
to augment human fishery observers. The company has also reduced catch in
certain regions — such as the Bay of Fundy in Canada and the Indian
Ocean — where stock assessments indicated a decline in abundance of herring
and yellowfin tuna, respectively. It’s often slow work — which, Clarke notes,
requires building relationships and pushing for incremental change.
“We have learned that what can appear to be a simple request, such as keeping
track of what the vessels catch in their nets and lines, can be a bit more
complicated than it appears,” Clarke says.
A key partner is the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) — an international
non-profit organization that, among other things, manages a certification
for sustainable seafood.
“When major brands such as Bumble Bee make strong sustainability commitments and
partner with the MSC, they are able to make a greater change on the water,”
Angelina Skowronski, Commercial Manager for the Western United States at
MSC, told Sustainable Brands. “As a large company with chain of custody
certification and consumer messaging, Bumble Bee’s efforts signify to both
fishing communities and consumers that sustainable fishing and protecting ocean
health is important.”
Beyond Bumble Bee becoming MSC-certified sustainable with its trademark blue-label MSC
MSC helps Fishery Improvement
(FIPs) transition into MSC-certified fisheries through their "In-transition to MSC" (ITM) program. Although ITM fisheries differ based on the species and fishery; essentially, it
helps build a mechanism to demonstrate progress, build capacity and achieve full
certification over time.
It’s not easy for a company to open its supply chain to scrutiny by independent,
outside organizations. In fact, this is something that, unfortunately, too many
brands never do. But to Clarke, working with groups such as MSC, the Global
Sustainable Seafood Institute and the International Seafood Sustainability
Foundation has been critical to their success so far.
“Having an independent voice assessing our fishing practices allows for a robust
process of incremental improvements,” Clarke says. “Continued and incremental
improvement tends to be the pace of change in these fisheries, as opposed to
large jumps or changes in the vessels’ operational practices.”
Which brings up an important point: The big jump from 2021 to 2022 is not just
because of actions taken in the last year — but due to the impacts of efforts
dating all the way back to 2013, when Bumble Bee first started working with MSC.
Bumble Bee still has a way to go to reach its ultimate goal — that 100 percent
of its seafood be externally recognized as sustainable by 2025. That’s just
three years away — so, there is much work to be done. As anyone who works on
sustainable supply chains knows, it's getting transparency and/or certification
on the final pieces that can often be the most difficult. For Bumble Bee, this
means focusing on specialty product species — such as baby clams, mussels and
mackerel; which are lagging behind tuna, wild salmon and surimi in terms of
certified, sustainable sourcing.
Clarke noted that achieving Bumble Bee’s ultimate goal will require increased
efforts to ensure better practices around catch reporting and verification of
data, which means working with and training consultants and vessel operators:
“Nonetheless, we are seeing progress on our efforts toward bringing all these
actors to meet FIP and MSC certification standards.”
For MSC, the hope is that Bumble Bee’s efforts will spur more action and
innovation in the seafood industry — which must continue to work with
policymakers, scientists and other stakeholders to ensure the world’s fisheries
are being sustainable managed. Currently, nearly 35 percent of global fish
stocks are operating at
unsustainable levels — a problem that is worsening due to climate
“Sustainability is an ongoing commitment and affects every part of the supply
chain,” Skowronski asserts. “The goal is for every company in the seafood
industry to think about their sourcing and embed sustainability in their
Published Jun 23, 2022 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST
Nithin is a freelance writer who focuses on global economic, and environmental issues with an aim at building channels of communication and collaboration around common challenges.
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.