February 12 2016: Congress bans import of forced labor products
Thanks Advocate! Much Aloha to editor James Wright.
Attending the 2016 SeaWeb Seafood Summit in Malta was a great time. I was pleased to have joined in this year and to be part of 2 presentations.
1. Social Responsibility in Fisheries – January 31, 2016
Hosted by the UK’s Seafish and moderated by Dr. Tom Pickerell, this event was opened by Kevin Hyland, the new Anti-Slavery Commissioner in the UK. The UK has recently adopted a statute requiring mandatory disclosure by companies about their actions to combat slavery in their supply chains. Together with the considerable oversight powers of the commissioner for investigations they have entered a very new era for sustainable seafood. Commissioner Hyland said he will be watching for UK companies to build on their statements year on year to evolve and improve. He encouraged all organizations present to build anti-trafficking concern into seafood sustainability programming — just take a look at the Sustainable Development goals signed onto by 190 countries he said and you’ll see the priority with total support.
Mike Mitchell of Young’s Seafood said the industry and its individuals have created an ideological barrier at quayside and anything at sea is outside of that barrier. “This is one of the most complex CSR challenges to this business ever and the decision-making process is fraught with risk. A year ago we asked ourselves, do we distance ourselves from this problem and walk away or will that make matters even worse?” Today, retailers are saying they will not buy. Walking away is no longer an option, Mike said.
Maisie Ganzler of the Bon Appetit Management Company reminded that several other sectors have felt this issue already. It is a long term issue that needs efforts that can’t be solved quickly. Codes of conduct won’t do it, nor boarding boats, nor engaging suppliers in cleaning up supply chains. Fresh thinking is needed for seafood, Maisie said. Seafood is complicated at sea however there is no need to reinvent the wheel as a lot of great lessons were learned in other sectors, like US agriculture.
With that powerful opening fifteen presenters had 5 minutes each to describe their contributions toward solving this problem. Congratulations to the Seafish team especially Tom and Karen Green for hosting a very inspiring day.
In the last presentation of the day, we launched the Social Responsibility tool for global fisheries with Seafish, Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership. What a breakthrough for alignment. Tom introduced me to present the new venture and I was pleased to deliver some much needed good news.
The idea is to turn high quality public data into integrated single scores for fisheries to understand comparative risks from one fishery to another. Progress will be tracked as well.
Our role in it, as Sustainability Incubator, is to develop the methodology for risk ID for any human trafficking in fisheries. The first question we looked into was whether or not enough high quality data is available to ask the same questions to all fisheries and fishing countries worldwide. The answer is yes, with many thanks to the monumental data push online by the US Department of Justice’s ILAB in December.
Why did the 3 NGOs come together? The issue of human trafficking in seafood has raised questions for sustainable seafood programming in the conservation sector. The industry does not want each organization doing its own thing. Basic idea behind risk ID: If you can identify the risk, existing programming can be coordinated to respond to the risk to increase the efficiency of the response. How powerful it is for these three big groups to join forces. Together they have the reach to make positive change.
The initial agreement is ‘risk’ scores shall be high, medium or low. High risk means trafficking is irrefutably happening in this fishery according to the authorities, being the ILO, US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons office, and other recognizably authoritative institutions. Medium means the fishing country has been implicated in human trafficking in fishing, is yellow or red carded by the European Union for illegal fishing, or otherwise on a watchlist for failing to protect seafarers from trafficking crime. (So medium is still pretty high! Just a note that we are not inferring here but rather reporting on the decisions taken by the authorities and the evidence they have published in support.)
Fisheries and fishing countries that have signed on to the minimum regulatory protections against trafficking and do not have a history of it in fishing are at low risk, in this scoring framework.
In a parallel score for fisheries positive scores will be rewarded where efforts are being made to reduce risks.
We are at the beginning of this. More to come.
2. Trusted Chains plenary session – February 2
David Schorr, a VP at the World Wildlife Fund put on a great session on day 2 of the summit in the opening plenary. Who can you trust to report on traceability, especially near the front end of seafood supply chains where sourcing relationships are complex? What about verifying compliance? What are the different types of information and knowledge required and where? At what different places? How do the questions differ? David asked me to present a sketch he and I have discussed over several months. The basic question is, if suppliers could report voluntarily on sourcing origins and on the conditions along the chain, if it were good for their business model because it could help move their fish more efficiently …would they? What would the system have to look like to be good for business? What would it have to look like to be taken seriously, to build trust?
It’s a big topic and our particular shared interest is with legality verification for imports. My slides (prepared by David) showed a first glimpse of how a system of voluntary registries might look.
Nigel Edwards of Icelandic Seachill picked up the question of what a robust chain of custody looks like and shared his company’s sourcing strategy with the group. As technical and CSR director Nigel has handled all of the legal issues that come in with imports and he has a solid reputation for integrity in business.
Alistair McDonnell, head of the transnational fishery crime unit at Interpol, shared how he investigates EU imports for illegal fishing. “Some people think its the vessels that are the key, or the documents. For others its the species mix that is important. For others it’s the business or the country or trade environment. A lot of people will say if we could only get at the mass balance. Actually, the important thing is illegal fishing is done by people. Not vessels. Not countries.” For each of the areas of concern (trade, business, documents, vessels, species, country) Alistair showed a card with IUU risk factors. “You have to play with the cards you are dealt.” For Interpol crime solving isn’t about having all the answers, but about using the answers you do have strategically. Each card is scored between 1 and 9. Any 9s in the hand mean the import is automatically detained for inspection.
There were a large number of thought-provoking things shared by David, Nigel and Alistair in this session and I encourage anyone interested in this topic to listen. I’ll try to remember to post the link if SeaWeb makes the presentation available.
The Sustainability Incubator and Trace Register are bringing the seafood sector more of the story behind the food.
Specifically, we are looking into digital certificates for reporting on the conditions of production at sea, around ports, and in processing that retailers increasingly want to hear about. It’s a way to build trust and to verify that imported products were made legally all the way through the chain. It’s called Building Trust in Fishing at Sea.
In future, Trace Register shall offer certificates where seafood exporters or importers can report on product origins to show due diligence to avoid products made from illegal fishing and human trafficking in some seafood production.
Essentially we are adding the checks from the Labor Safe Screen and other legality verifying procedures to Trace Register. We applied for this challenge to help raise funds to do it. Our team was selected as a finalist. It means we’ll receive support to develop the prototype and have a shot at the $250k prize.
Lots of press about this competition:
Reuters article has been picked up by a number of outlets including Business Insider, The Fiscal Times, and Yahoo! News Australia.
WSJ article has been picked up by notables on Twitter including:
U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services published a blog post on the announcement
The Strategic Sourceror published a piece on Tuesday
Sourcing Journal published an article yesterday
We are focused on where the good business is in due diligence. With rigorous research and technology we are isolating the problems and be efficient about turning these challenges into a solution. Feedback is always welcome.