Transparency is a core tenet of the Common Vision for Sustainable Seafood, which serves as a guide for businesses to develop and implement sustainable seafood programs. From a business perspective, transparency is a way to maintain a positive reputation and also serves to build trust and generate brand loyalty. While it’s great that many retailers are adopting sustainable seafood programs, the credibility of these programs can be undermined if the company’s sustainability criteria, goals, and progress are not publicly available.
In sustainability reporting, it’s important to be very clear about the scope of the sustainable seafood policy, along with any associated goals. For example, does the company address national brand seafood items in its sustainable seafood commitment, or are they only reporting out on private label products? What criteria are used to evaluate whether or not seafood products meet the company’s policy (certifications, ratings, FIPs, etc.)? Is social responsibility and traceability in seafood supply chains being addressed? Are the commitments time-bound, and does the company annually report out against its goals?
And then there’s the question about what happens after a company reaches its goals. At FishWise, we feel strongly that it’s important for a company to annually report on the status of its sustainable seafood program, even after a goal has been achieved, to ensure that the program stays on track. In many ways, transparency into how well a company is maintaining a credible seafood program is just as important as publicly disclosing progress on forward-facing goals and initiatives.
Staff and organizational pride is a clear benefit of transparent reporting for all of our partners. When a company has strong internal alignment and support for a sustainability goal, progress happens more quickly.
Transparency is becoming increasingly important to consumers. It’s a smart idea for companies to stay ahead of that trend by publicly reporting on their goals even after they’ve been achieved. Target’s annual CSR report is an excellent example of a company creating a platform to communicate to stakeholders about its progress.
Transparency helps build a company’s positive reputation since it increases trust.
Transparent reporting on environmental and social initiatives can also be used by potential investors to evaluate a company’s leadership and values on important global issues.
Our partners use different methods to report publicly, such as blogs, press releases, CSR reports, and website updates, so we’ve had to tailor our communication styles and advice to suit our partners’ audiences and communication platforms. Our level of involvement with these communications also varies across partnerships. Some of our partners rely on us to provide content about their sustainability efforts, while other companies have dedicated personnel to facilitate these communications. For the latter, our primary role is to review the content to ensure its accuracy.
For the future, we plan to continue working with our partners to maintain transparency, be that on progress against new goals involving shelf-stable tuna, social responsibility, and traceability, or just as importantly, on how well our partners are maintaining their existing commitments.
Target is a good example of a partner who is committed to transparency as a way forward, not just a trend to follow.