As the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart buys and sells tens of thousands of consumer products originating from all corners of the globe which is creating increased demand for the raw materials to manufacture these items. Recently, CEO Lee Scott gave a speech on how Wal-Mart could work with its suppliers to conduct business in a more sustainable manner.
Wal-Mart has reached out to Conservation International and others for guidance on integrating sustainability into its multiple supply chains. Based on this information, Wal-Mart has moved quickly to improve how the company purchases its seafood.
Prior to announcing in November 2005, the company's intention to purchase farmed shrimp certified to standards established by the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA), Wal-Mart requested that CI provide input on the environmental aspects of GAA's farm-level standard. Wal-Mart encouraged GAA to adopt many of our recommendations, which strengthened the environmental sections of this standardespecially with regard to the protection of coastal wetlands.
In support of Wal-Mart's committment to hold its wild-caught fresh and frozen fish suppliers to Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standards, CI has collaborated with Wal-Mart's suppliers as well as other groups like WWF to address improvements needed to rebuild depleted fisheries. CI also has stressed the importance of viewing fisheries management as part of a larger strategy to protect marine ecosystems.
Following those two announcements, we sat down with Peter Redmond, vice president for Seafood and Deli at Wal-Mart, to get an insider's view of how the company is integrating sustainability into its seafood purchasing practices.
CELB eNewsletter: Why has Wal-Mart decided to promote and engage in sustainable business practices in the fish and seafood sector?
Redmond: In line with our commitment toward sustainable seafood procurement, we made a decision to source all of our wild-caught fresh and frozen fish for the North American market from MSC (Marine Stewardship Council)-certified fisheries. This ensures that there is long-term supply of a raw material that we need. We also recognize that with our size and scale we can effect change within the industry.
CELB eNewsletter: Why did Wal-Mart choose the eco-labeling approach in general? And why GAA for shrimp and why Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for wild-catch?
Redmond: These NGOs are widely seen as the leading organizations in their respective fields.
CELB eNewsletter: What will MSC certification, the eco-label, mean for your customer?
Redmond: Customers who see that Wal-Mart offers wild-caught fish only from MSC-certified fisheries can be certain that they are buying from a retailer that is taking active steps to ensure that the wild-caught fish they enjoy will continue to be available to them and to future generations.
CELB eNewsletter: Currently you work with some MSC certified fisheries, why are you giving your non-certified suppliers three-to-five years to develop plans and programs to become certified since you already work with MSC certified fisheries?
Redmond: The easiest thing we could do is to walk away from unsustainable fisheries. However, we see the opportunity to try and recover such fisheries where we find willing suppliers. If we only source from current MSC supplies, we could very soon make them unsustainable due to our volume.
CELB eNewsletter: In five years, will you only purchase MSC certified fish?
Redmond: That is indeed the goal.
CELB eNewsletter: What are the results you hope to obtain for Wal-Mart, your suppliers and other retailers, by purchasing MSC certified fish?
Redmond: We hope to secure a constant, high quality resource that will take some of the tightness of supply out of the market.
CELB eNewsletter: How will Wal-Mart work with suppliers to help fisheries improve and meet MSC requirements?
Redmond: Wal-Mart will work with the MSC and WWF to help bring the selected fisheries up to the certification standard.
CELB eNewsletter: Do you believe that Wal-Mart is leading the way in the retail food industry by requiring MSC certification?
Redmond: In certain aspects we are catching up with some other suppliers. However, there are areas within our goals where we are pioneering new ways of looking at old problems.
CELB eNewsletter: Do you hope others will follow your lead?
Redmond: Yes, very much so.
CELB eNewsletter: What positive impacts or changes have occurred within Wal-Mart since you started to work with CI?
Redmond: There are several other species of fish that need help that are not covered by any certification program. We are focusing on those areas next. There is also the whole subject of protecting and reclaiming habitat that we hope to become involved with.