Next month, Walmart plans to transition to sustainable sourcing for its store-brand canned tuna.
Walmart said Monday that, starting in July, Great Value canned tuna will be sourced from suppliers that are Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified or actively working toward certification via a time-bound Fishery Improvement Project (FIP). The move comes more than four years earlier than planned under the Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant sustainable seafood program.
“With a clear signal from leadership, our team has invested in research to help us better understand the value chain of tuna and ask the question, ‘What’s the right way to do this?’” Sean Reber, senior director of sourcing and procurement at Walmart, said in a statement. Reber leads Walmart’s global sourcing team on direct import programs for packaged food.
Walmart reported that, according to the United Nations, a third of global fisheries have been fished beyond sustainable limits. To promote more responsible seafood sourcing, suppliers, sellers and other parties must set goals to reduce overfishing, eliminate bycatch and support healthier oceans, the retailer said.
The MSC Fisheries Standard requires fisheries it certifies to meet three core criteria: sustainable fish stocks, minimal environmental impact and effective fisheries management. Walmart said its buyers have been “hard at work” collaborating with Great Value tuna suppliers to source canned tuna in its U.S. stores as MSC-certified or, based on supplier reports, from an FIP pursuing certification with definitive goals, measurable metrics and time-bound milestones.
“Making sure affordable, high-quality tuna that meets these requirements makes it all the way to the aisle is a very complex process,” explained Jessica Baldini, buyer for Walmart U.S. shelf-stable tuna. “It takes alignment and collaboration with internal leadership and external stakeholders. So there are a lot of people who have to be on board with the idea that ‘sustainability is what Walmart stands for.’”
The sourcing change for Great Value canned tuna will chart a course for other brands to institute more sustainable practices, Walmart said, adding that it aims to migrate all of its shelf-stable tuna assortment to responsible sourcing by 2025.
“When Walmart says, ‘We’re committed to buying sustainable tuna,’ it sends a message loud and clear to the fishing vessels, to the captains and to the industry at large,” Reber commented.
As part of Walmart’s sustainable seafood policy, by 2025, suppliers of canned light and white tuna to Walmart U.S., Sam’s Club, Walmart Canada and other international Walmart stores must source from fisheries that comply with the International Sustainable Seafood Foundation (ISSF) sustainability conservation measures (including those adopted in collaboration with tuna Regional Fishery Management Organizations and from vessels registered on the Pro-active Vessel Register); and are certified as third-party sustainable by MSC or a program following FAO Guidelines that’s recognized by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI). Walmart said it also will source canned tuna from suppliers using better-management fishing practices as validated through chain of custody (such as pole and line, free-school sets) or suppliers actively working toward certification in a FIP.
Walmart added that it asks suppliers to report their progress using the Seafood Metrics System managed by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP). The system helps measure and track supplier performance on sustainable sourcing, according to the company.
“To help identify areas for improvement in aligning sourcing with sustainability policies and goals, SFP works with Walmart to collect information on the sources of their seafood supply,” stated Kathryn Novak, global markets director at SFP. “Building continuous improvement across seafood supply chains can drive much-needed progress in fishery management and production around the world.”
By 2025, Walmart U.S., Sam’s Club, Asda, Walmart Canada, Walmart Brazil, Walmart Mexico and Walmart Central America will require all fresh and frozen, farmed and wild0-caught seafood suppliers to source from fisheries that are third-party certified as sustainable by MSC, Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP); a GSSI-recognized program following FAO Guidelines; or actively working toward certification or in a FIP or Aquaculture Improvement Project (AIP). As with canned tuna, Walmart said the transition will be based on price, availability, quality, customer demand and regulatory environments across its global retail markets.