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Bridging the gap: turning sustainability rhetoric into action

IPNLF shares insights from SENA and SEG on the growing seafood industry commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals

How do the UN SDGs fit into the corporate world?

A recent report highlighted that 72% of companies refer to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their corporate or sustainability reporting (PwC, 2018). At first glance, this seems like a promising figure; a clear demonstration of progress made since 2015 when the 2030 Agenda was adopted by 193 countries of the UN General Assembly. But dig a little deeper into the study’s findings and we discover that only 27% of companies incorporate the SDGs as part of their business strategy – that means that less than one-third of businesses use the SDG framework to inform and direct their activities.

Indeed, this report highlights the considerable gap between SDG talk and SDG action. Many companies now know the SDG rhetoric but unfortunately far fewer are making commitments to ensure their business can contribute to the global sustainable development agenda. At a time when consumers – in particular the Millennials and Generation Z – are increasingly using their purchasing power as a channel for change, companies are expected to follow suit, and be a force for good.

So how does the seafood industry compare?

With approximately 800 million people dependent upon fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods around the world (Source: WorldFish), the global seafood industry has a clear responsibility to deliver upon the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The SDGs – through their holistic vision to eradicate poverty and deprivation, grow economies, protect the environment, advance peace and promote good governance – provide the ideal framework to support responsible fisheries. In the world of tuna, one-by-one fisheries have already been shown to align with a number of the UN SDGs, providing an opportunity for seafood businesses that want to be able to demonstrate how their procurement reflects their commitment to addressing the SDGs. By preferentially sourcing from one-by-one tuna fisheries and championing a more equitable supply chain, responsible seafood businesses can support the livelihoods of coastal communities and minimise environmental impacts, aligning with many SDG  targets.

Reaching the right audience

IPNLF sees responsible seafood businesses as a key audience for making important progress toward the SDGs. As such, we have been working with a growing number of companies and organisations that are already supporting one-by-one tuna fisheries. But there is always room for more!

We have taken every opportunity to work with our Members and like-minded organisations to champion the SDG message. And where better to maximise our reach with responsible seafood businesses than at the Seafood Expo North America (SENA) and Seafood Expo Global (SEG) trade shows, which collectively attract more than 50,000 seafood stakeholders.

Building equity into sustainable seafood sourcing

At SENA in March, IPNLF convened a panel that explored the opportunities to support sustainable seafood, small-scale fisheries and the SDGs. The session posed three important questions to seafood businesses: have you fully evaluated both the environmental and social impacts of your procurement policies; can you increase your support for small-scale fisheries and the many livelihoods that depend upon them; and can you contribute more to the SDGs?

The panel brought together internationally recognised experts from academia (Too Big to Ignore), IPNLF Member businesses (Ocean Brands and Wild Fish Direct), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to share perspectives on bridging the gap between the needs of small-scale fishers and the realities of the marketplace in an effort to address the SDGs. What the panel made clear was that these types of multi-sectoral discussions are key, and IPNLF will continue to seek out opportunities for such dialogue.

Sharing a new perspective

At SEG in May, IPNLF maximised the opportunity to engage its Members and other seafood stakeholders in the sustainable development conversation. Across the three-day event, IPNLF highlighted the issues and opportunities for the market, including at our Members meeting, one-on-one meetings and a networking reception co-hosted with MMAF, AP2HI, SIPPO and the Smart-FISH Indonesia programme.

Armed with our communication tools, including the latest Annual Report which illustrates the ways that IPNLF’s activities in 2018/19 tie in to the SDGs, we also provided important additional evidence that IPNLF Member companies and organisations can now use to demonstrate how, through working with us, they are moving from commitments to action.

This message is not only important for seafood businesses, but for the policymaking, NGO and scientific communities too. To engage this broad reach of stakeholders, IPNLF previously co-hosted a side event at the Our Ocean Conference in Bali, and a panel session at the Seafood Summit in Barcelona in 2018.

A call to action

Through the conversations we continue to have, we are heartened to hear how the SDGs are at the forefront of the minds of organisations that are genuinely committed to net positivity and making a positive impact on the world, rather than continuing with business as usual. One-by-one tuna fisheries offer a solution to responsible seafood businesses willing and wanting to commit to sourcing sustainable tuna and contributing to sustainable development of coastal communities around the world. The growing IPNLF membership is testament to the readiness of companies to make this commitment and we genuinely welcome hearing from others who are looking to be proactive in supporting the global sustainable development agenda.