Conflicting messaging and inconsistent execution around seafood sustainability likely causes confusion among consumers and could result in watered down claims, according to panelists at the session “Legally Green: Environmental Claims in the Seafood Marketplace.”
Looking at the claims that exist in the marketplace today, some say “sustainable” while others say “responsible,” said Matt Thompson, aquaculture project lead, New England Aquarium Sustainable Seafood Program. Some are certification programs, like the Marine Stewardship Council's Certified Sustainable Seafood, while while others are just a company or organization logo.
Sometimes a retailer will alter claims in some way to standardize the logo on products. For example, the retailer might ensure that its products are Aquaculture Stewardship Council Certified Farmed Responsibly or Best Aquaculture Practices Certified but then use its own “Sustainable” logo in stores.
In an extreme example, Thompson suggested that a retailer that uses third-party verification programs to say that its seafood is “responsibly sourced” might be at a disadvantage to a retailer that makes its own requirements for suppliers and claims its products are “sustainable” because of consumer confusion over the language. That competitive disadvantage might cause the former retailer to weaken its requirements over time.
At least for the time being “responsible” may be a better term than “sustainable” because it allows room for improvement, said Phil Gibson, CEO of Resiliensea Group and a former Safeway executive.
Gibson also said that sustainability is becoming more and more important to seafood consumers, especially younger customers.