Blog: Dean BestCanadian retail's big fish takes lead on sustainability

Dean Best | 5 February 2010

Sustainability may have slipped down the list of priorities at some food manufacturers and retailers during the downturn but there is regular evidence that parts of the industry are still very committed to the issue.

This week, Loblaw, one of Canada's largest retailers, has made another move to encourage consumers to opt for sustainably-sourced fish.

Last year, the company said it would sell only sustainably-sourced fish by 2013 and told just-food it was pursuing some of the most "aggressive" practices seen among North American retailers.

As part of that programme, Loblaw will leave empty seafood-counter trays where fish identified as "at risk" was once stocked.

It's an interesting move and one that should have a striking visual impact for consumers, who, NGOs argue, are increasingly confused at how retailers and manufacturers label sustainable seafood.

Green campaigners the WWF is watching the issue of sustainable seafood very closely. Last month, the pressure group slammed seafood labelling schemes for being too confusing for consumers.

And even the Marine Stewardship Council's programme, which scored the highest scores from the WWF, was not exempt from criticism.

The WWF has welcomed Loblaw's move. "Loblaw is showing globally significant leadership on this critical issue," admits Gerald Butts, president and CEO of the Canadian office of the WWF.

However, as the WWF and other NGOs would argue, a lot of work is needed on issues like transparency and standardisation to give shoppers more confidence that the fish they buy has been sustainably sourced.


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