In July, achieving a key aspect of its original goal years early, Walmart Inc. will begin sourcing its U.S. stores’ private-brand Great Value canned tuna as either Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified or, based on supplier reports, from a time-bound fishery improvement project (FIP) actively working toward certification. The news coincided with the United Nations' World Oceans Day on June 8.
The MSC Fisheries Standard has three core principles every fishery must meet: sustainable fish stocks, minimal environmental impact, and effective fisheries management.
“With a clear signal from leadership, our team has invested in research to help us better understand the value chain of tuna and ask the question, ‘What’s the right way to do this?’” noted Sean Reber, who heads Walmart’s global sourcing team on direct import programs for packaged food, in a blog post.
“Making sure affordable, high-quality tuna that meets these requirements makes it all the way to the aisle is a very complex process,” said Jessica Baldini, buyer for Walmart U.S. shelf-stable tuna. “It takes alignment and collaboration with internal leadership and external stakeholders – so there are a lot of people who have to be on board with the idea that ‘sustainability is what Walmart stands for.’”
Further, hoping to influence global practices regarding sustainable seafood, Walmart is requesting that suppliers to report their progress using the Seafood Metrics System, managed by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP). The system helps measure and track supplier performance on sustainable sourcing.
“To help identify areas for improvement in aligning sourcing with sustainability policies and goals, SFP works with Walmart to collect information on the sources of their seafood supply,” said Kathryn Novak, global markets director at Honolulu-based SFP. “Building continuous improvement across seafood supply chains can drive much-needed progress in fishery management and production around the world.”
Walmart also said that it was aiming to procure all of its shelf-stable tuna assortment from sustainable sources by 2025.
“When Walmart says, ‘we’re committed to buying sustainable tuna,’ it sends a message loud and clear to the fishing vessels, to the captains and to the industry at large,” observed Reber.
Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart operates more than 11,300 stores under 58 banners in 27 countries, and e-commerce websites, employing 2.2 million-plus associates worldwide. Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer's list of the top food retailers in North America.