A Greenpeace report, Sea of Distress, found that some of the largest U.S. foodservice companies are failing to provide consumers with seafood that meets basic standards for sustainability and social responsibility. Of the 15 companies assessed in the report, only Sodexo, Compass Group, and Aramark received low passing scores, indicating there is much room for improvement.
“Many foodservice companies have avoided accountability for the seafood they sell for far too long,” says Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner David Pinsky. “These companies feed millions of people in university cafeterias, corporate dining halls, restaurants, and hospitals, yet consumers are kept in the dark about whether their seafood is sustainable and ethical. It’s time to shine a light on these companies and demand action.”
The foodservice industry accounts for nearly half of all food-dollar spending outside of the home every day, supplying clients like Disney World, George Washington University, Walmart, Subway, and the U.S. Congress. In its first assessment of foodservice companies, Greenpeace evaluated both broadline distributors and management companies on policy, responsible sourcing, advocacy, traceability and transparency, and inventory.
The report finds that the U.S. foodservice industry as a whole has failed on traceability, incentivizes consumption with discount programs for bulk purchasing without regard for environmental or social impacts, and has prevented smaller companies from securing better products through large companies like Sysco and US Foods. Across the board, the industry is failing to address potential human rights abuses in seafood supply chains abroad, and must improve its treatment of U.S. workers, including actions such as paying employees a living wage.
“It’s particularly disappointing that two of the largest foodservice companies, Sysco and US Foods, continue to provide destructively caught seafood to foodservice operators nationwide,” Pinsky says. “Given their size and position in the supply chain, these two companies have a responsibility to provide only sustainable, ethical seafood.”
In the largest canned tuna market in the world, most U.S. foodservice companies are procuring destructive and potentially unethical canned tuna for consumers. Thai Union, the world’s largest canned tuna company and owner of Chicken of the Sea in the U.S., supplies companies including Sysco, Compass Group, Gordon Food Service, and Shamrock Foods. Thai Union has faced continued pressure for its destructive fishing methods and connections to human rights abuses in several supply chains.
Sodexo, Compass Group, and Aramark led the profiled companies due to their transparency, sustainability sourcing requirements, and advocacy efforts. While each of these companies just passed, all must work to improve seafood traceability, protect workers’ rights abroad and in the U.S., and ensure any canned tuna they provide is sustainable and ethical. Sodexo must follow Compass Group’s and Aramark’s leads, committing to source responsible canned tuna.
Companies received a seven-page survey used to evaluate seafood operations in five key areas: policy, responsible sourcing, advocacy, traceability and transparency, and inventory. The survey questions reflect Greenpeace's efforts to tackle common impacts of the seafood industry on marine ecosystems, improve the sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture, and ensure that worker and human rights are protected. Greenpeace relied on publicly available information for the 12 companies that refused to participate, though their lack of transparency on seafood initiatives negatively impacted their scores.
Greenpeace’s assessment and recommendations are based on best available science and leading experts. Company inventories were benchmarked against a respected sustainability measure, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch recommendations. Greenpeace consulted labor and worker organizations for recommendations to protect workers’ rights. Greenpeace has invited each company to meet for a detailed review of its results and recommendations.