Meet edie's 2019 Sustainable Supply Chain champions: Thai Union and WWF
With entries now open for edie's Sustainability Leaders Awards 2020, this new feature series showcases the achievements of the 2019 winners and reveals their secrets to success. Up next: The winners of our 2019 Sustainable Supply Chains Award, Thai Union and WWF.
The United Nations (UN) estimates that more than 70% of the world’s fisheries are either “fully exploited’, “overexploited” or “significantly depleted” - and with the global population widely expected to grow beyond 10 billion people by 2050, the pressure is now on food firms to bolster their supply chains and find a way to feed this ever-growing population in a more sustainable way.
In 2014, seafood brand Thai Union Europe (TUE) partnered with environmental NGO WWF in a move that would see the two organisations work collaboratively towards a lofty yet important goal – making European seafood supply chains more sustainable. Under the partnership, WWF has supported TUE on its journey to sourcing all tuna for its own-brand lines from fisheries that are either Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified or engaged in Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs), which see all the stakeholders in a fishery acting to make it more sustainable.
Before the partnership was forged, less than 5% of TUE’s tuna supply came from FIPs or MSC-certified fisheries. The figure now stands at more than 95%, after Thai Union invested significantly in sustainable supply chain initiatives such as FIP development. In 2018 alone, TUE funded programmes to place seven of its global fisheries into FIPs – a move that has required the company to collaborate with fishing vessel operators, national governments, local authorities and competitor business to drive engagement and, therefore, maximum impact.
TUE has also ensured that all purse seine vessels are signed on to the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation’s Pro-Active Vessel Register – a digital database which encourages tuna vessel owners to identify their involvement in sustainability activities – and begun to support WWF’s East Africa Programme for sustainable fisheries.
But Thai Union has not just addressed overfishing and unsustainable practice at fisheries. With oceans facing unprecedented environmental problems in regard to plastic pollution, global temperature rise and sea-level rise – and with just 4% of the world’s seas covered by human rights governance frameworks – Thai Union has been working to tackle a sweeping array of sustainability challenges. The company's work on human rights in supply chains, for example, has earned the organisation praise from the UN, the Thai Government and multinational media firm Reuters Thompson, which shortlisted the company alongside Apple for its first Modern Slavery Award in 2018.
This cross-sector collaboration is an exemplary occurrence of a business taking action to avoid displacing unsustainable actions to other firms’ supply chains as it seeks to make its own more sustainable, with most FIPS supplying to other food and drink businesses in addition to TUE. In its application for this award, WWF told edie that the launch of the partnership had been “mutually beneficial” for both organisations, with each having a different role to play in tackling sustainability problems at sea. While TUE has been able to use its scale to transform industry practices, WWF has provided the impartial advice and expertise that the multinational has needed to do so.
Speaking to edie in 2018, Thai Union’s global director for sustainable development Darian McBain explained that the partnership has helped TUE reframe sustainability as a pre-competitive issue and improve the scale of its ambition and actions to the point that it is now widely viewed as a leader of positive change. Indeed, the firm has been listed in the prestigious Dow Jones Sustainability Emerging Markets Index and the FTSE4Good Emerging Index every year since 2014.
“We’re really thrilled that the effort and resource we’ve put into the last four years of working together in a partnership has paid off and been recognised by an independent award ceremony that’s as prestigious as this,” TUE’s responsible sourcing manager Tracy Cambridge said.
WWF UK’s partnerships & sustainable business lead Dan Murray added: “This is an example of a charity and a business coming together and really delivering something that is absolutely transformational - it’s on a global scale and it’s actually making a genuine change. It’s really exciting for how we operate as a charity and how TUE operate as a business, and I think we can go on from strength to strength from here.”
What the judges said: “This joint initiative is a great example of how partnerships can drive ambitious actions, facilitate new discussion and help to raise awareness of important issues. TUE’s commitment to the cause is particularly impressive, and this is a live demonstration of how partnerships can make business a force for good.”
edie’s 2020 Sustainability Leaders Awards
Now entering their 13th year for 2020, the RSA-accredited Sustainability Leaders Awards are sure to be one of the biggest nights of the year in the sustainability and energy space, with some exciting new categories added to recognise excellence across the spectrum of sustainable business.
The 2020 Sustainability Leaders are now OPEN for entries. The entry deadline is Friday 27 September 2019. The Awards will then take place on the night of 5 February 2020 at the Park Plaza London, Westminster.