Costco Commits to Sustainable Seafood

The Costco corporation has released a new sustainable seafood policy that eliminates the sale of red list seafood species and declares a commitment to sourcing only from seafood suppliers who use sustainable practices.  This change in policy came about as a result of consumer pressure and an eight-month campaign by Greenpeace.

Costco's Sustainability Guidelines
Responding to customer concerns, Costco began moving toward sustainability in 2009 with its first Corporate Sustainability Report, which addressed concerns such as energy efficiency, recycling and sustainable sourcing for products.  The original sustainable seafood policy published in the Corporate Sustainability Report was quite vague, with the goal to “Continually supply sustainable seafood” and to take factors such as environmental impact into consideration.

The new sustainable seafood policy, released February 2011, is much more specific.  This three page policy, available on the Investor Relations page of the Costco website, outlines which seafood products Costco will not sell, and how Costco will choose sustainable sources for both wild and farmed seafood.  Special consideration is given to three of Costco's best-selling seafood products: salmon, tilapia and canned tuna.

Costco's Standards For Sustainable Seafood
Costco has partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in an effort to source only from fisheries that use sustainable practices and to enforce a set of standards for those fisheries.  Each seafood product, whether farmed or wild, has a unique set of circumstances that determine its sustainability, and it may be a few years before all of Costco's seafood suppliers are sustainable, but the corporation is moving in the right direction.  Costco has set its shrimp supply as the first goal, holding its Thai shrimp suppliers up against the standards for shrimp farming outlined by the Shrimp Aquaculture Dialogue.

As a result of Costco's new sustainable seafood policy, consumers will no longer be able to purchase certain red list seafood products in Costco stores.  These products include Atlantic cod, bluefin tuna, Chilean sea bass, grouper, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, and several others.  The Marine Stewardship Council, a certification and eco-labeling organization for sustainable seafood, has determined that each of these products is sourced in a non-sustainable fashion, which may include being overfished or causing damage to surrounding sealife.  Costco has vowed not to stock any of these non-sustainable seafood products until the Marine Stewardship Council certifies the product as sustainable.

Costco's sustainable seafood policy is still in transition, and more updates can be expected by the end of 2011 as they work out the details.

Photo Credit:  Tim Pearce, Los Gatos