Sobeys and SFP Partnership

In 2010, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) and Sobeys Inc. initiated a partnership under the guiding principal of “fix the worst first,” using the approach of implementing improvement plans in the most challenged fisheries. Like many other retail partners involved in seafood commitments with Alliance members, Sobeys holds significant buying power: as the second largest retailer in Canada, it owns or franchises more than 1,500 supermarkets under a variety of banners. Now, SFP is leveraging its relationship with Sobeys to provide publically available resources and drive the formation of industry-led FIPs.

Shared philosophy, natural partnership

As Sam Grimley, Program Manager for SFP’s Buyer Engagement Team puts it, the ideals shared by SFP and Sobeys made the partnership a natural fit from the outset. “It is SFP’s internal philosophy to work with the most problematic fisheries,” Grimley explained. “Sobeys also supports this idea to improve fisheries and works hard to source from FIPs that are meeting the Alliance guidelines.”

In spite of the company’s positive reception, the path to developing a sustainable seafood commitment and engaging with FIPs was not without its challenges. The concept of FIPs were relatively novel at the start of the partnership, which required educational outreach to bring the Sobeys buying team up to speed on appropriate sourcing. Furthermore, there was a degree of internal turnover and several layers of staff involved in seafood purchasing at Sobeys, as one may expect at a large company of this size.

There were also upsides to these challenges, according to Grimley. When the Director of Sustainability assumed his role in 2013, he was committed to driving sustainability improvements, which afforded a smooth transition in the partnership. The collaboration between the Director of Sustainability and the Head of Meat and Seafood at Sobeys created a synergy in translating the company’s policy on paper to an implemented practice. As Grimley framed it, “While it’s important to work with the CSR team at a retailer, it’s also helpful to have the buyers reach out to the suppliers themselves.”

Additionally, SFP maintains ongoing and active educational outreach with the company’s network of buyers. “The company has seven or eight buyers around Canada, and it can be a challenge for SFP to work with multiple buyers at one company,” Grimley described. As a form of continuing education, SFP selects a species of concern every two months and provides updated information on the species to Sobeys’ buying team. This relationship building has created a foundation of trust between both parties. “If the buyers have questions around seafood sustainability, they can turn to SFP for counsel,” Grimley said.

Engagement with suppliers and FIPs

Through its engagement with SFP, Sobeys committed not to sell seafood species with any major sustainability issues by 2013, unless improvement plans are in place to address key concerns. The strategy, coined “beyond certification, to fix the worst first” has improved transparency on sources from 220 fisheries, engaged 150 suppliers, certified 70 private label products, and trained over 2,000 supermarket staff on seafood sustainability.

Though the company is currently in the process of evaluating its progress toward the goal, it has managed to engage 15 FIPs and has leveraged its supplier relationships to convey improvements in FIPs down the supply chain.

SFP and Sobeys are continuing to advance their engagement with suppliers and FIPs. Over the coming months, SFP will be gathering a series of supplier roundtables to examine challenges facing particular species or fisheries, and to identify opportunities for collaborative improvement efforts. Sobeys has participated in some of these roundtables, and has provided support in bringing suppliers to the table for these talks. In addition, Sobeys is also looking to host a Sustainability Summit with SFP during fall 2014, to which the company’s top suppliers will be invited peut on acheter du viagra sur internet.

According to Grimley, the ability to lean on Sobeys’ influence in reaching out to suppliers has been critical. “The takeaway from it all, in terms of getting suppliers to engage, is that the NGOs are still heavily dependent on our retail partners to get suppliers involved,” he said. “But we are starting to see a change in supplier willingness, with a number of suppliers championing improvement efforts.”

Rise of industry-led FIPs

Ever since the introduction of FIPs, SFP has been a key player in developing FIPs. However, in the past few years, the organization has shifted its role from leading FIPs itself to encouraging the formation of industry-led FIPs. By using lessons learned from relationships with retailers like Sobeys, SFP has increased the public availability and transferability of its tools. In 2013 alone, dozens of new industry-led FIPs have been created.

According to Kathryn Novak, SFP Director of Buyer Engagement, SFP utilizes a specific approach when working with their retailer and supplier partners who are interested in improving the sustainability of the seafood supplies. The process includes the following steps:

  1. The retailer or supplier partner develops a public facing sustainability commitment or policy, with guidance and advice from SFP
  2. SFP works with the partner to conduct a sustainability risk analysis of the partner’s source fishery and farms. This assessment utilizes publicly available, science-based information found in to identify sustainability risks and improvement needs in supply sources.
  3. The partner then can share this information with suppliers and encourage the action by the supply chain around sustainability improvements.
  4. Publicly available tools are available for stakeholders who are interested in developing and implementing a FIP. These include the FIP Directory, which provides a comprehensive catalogue of FIPs globally, as well as resources for FIP participants including background briefs, technical manuals, and a detailed FIP Toolkit for creating and implementing a FIP.
  5. Once a FIP has been developed, FIP participants then report FIP information publically, using outlets such as the FIP Directory, to facilitate progress tracking.

According to Kathryn Novak, Director of Buyer Engagement at SFP, there appears to be an eager willingness for industry to develop FIPs. Novak described the recent trend, “There seems to be a strong appetite to create industry-led FIPs. Initially there was a lot of concern about potential costs, but resources have sprung up, such as the Sea Pact. Consultancies have approached us; SFP has provided public tools; and several new industry-led FIPs have started in just a short time.”

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SFP public resources for FIPs

  1. SFP FIP Toolkit: This toolkit is presented in three parts—initiation, implementation, and communication—to help guide users through the FIP process. 
  2. The Seafood Industry Guide to FIPs: This guide provides an introduction on establishing and running a FIP. It also includes templates, such as sample budgets, workplans, and FIP agreements.
  3. WWF FIP Handbook: Published by WWF, this handbook is intended to support fishery stakeholders in developing and implementing comprehensive FIPs. It also includes templates such as sample scoping documents, FIP action plans, and reporting plans.