Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

Commitment supports Woolworths` position as South Africa’s leading retailer of MSC labelled products


Source: Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

Emphasising a passion for sustainability and their drive to help shoppers make more informed seafood choices, Woolworths South Africa has announced a commitment that includes sourcing wild-caught seafood from MSC certified fisheries.

Woolworths first introduced a Sustainable Seafood Policy to their operations in 2008 and in 2012 partnered with the MSC in a consumer focused joint marketing campaign across all of their South African stores. The campaign aimed to raise the profile of the MSC ecolabel on products in Woolworths’ canned, frozen and chilled seafood ranges. They have since implemented a business-wide ‘Fishing for the Future’ programme and continue to cement their position as the retailer with the widest choice of sustainably sourced and traceable seafood products in the country.

Building on sustainable procurement initiatives

Woolworths’ announcement builds on a number of procurement milestones that have been achieved over the past five years, which saw them become the first South African retailer to introduce a Sustainable Seafood Policy and to sign the WWF-SASSI* Retail Charter. Since implementing the policy Woolworths has ceased to sell species that do not fit with their sustainability guidelines. In 2010 they introduced random DNA testing to help combat mislabelling and in 2012 became the first retailer in the country to have their fresh seafood counters certified against the MSC’s Chain of Custody (CoC) Standard.

'We’re very proud of what we have achieved over the last five years,' says Woolworths Managing Director of Foods, Zyda Rylands, 'not only as far as ensuring that the seafood we sell is responsibly sourced, but in raising our customers’ awareness of the real danger posed by declining fish populations and the need to only buy responsibly sourced seafood from responsible retailers.'

Woolworths' commitment states that by the end of 2015 all of their wild-caught seafood will be:

  • Sourced from MSC (or equivalent) certified fisheries or
  • Sourced from fisheries that are undertaking a credible, time-bound improvement project in order to reach these standards or
  • WWF-SASSI green listed.

Chris Kastern, WWF-SASSI Retailer/Supplier Engagement Officer, added, 'Woolworths has placed sustainability high on their agenda for a number of years and should be congratulated on setting themselves a challenging, but achievable target. Retailers play a pivotal role in guiding consumer buying behaviour and a growing number of responsible retailers worldwide are making a huge contribution to the improvement of global fishing practices.'

Support from the MSC

Martin Purves, MSC’s Southern Africa Programme Manager was enthusiastic about Woolworths’ announcement, saying, 'Consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impacts of their seafood purchases and want to make the right choices. The growth of MSC labelled products in South Africa is very encouraging and we are delighted to work with Woolworths and support them in their quest to offer shoppers the widest range of sustainable seafood choices.'

The Southern Africa office of the MSC works with a number of regional fisheries towards improving their practices and is also actively engaged with retail and food service partners to expand the range of MSC-labelled consumer products from existing certified fisheries. For any product to carry the MSC ecolabel all companies in the seafood supply chain must have a valid CoC certificate. MSC CoC certification involves a comprehensive audit program that allows seafood to be traced from final packaging back to a MSC-certified fishery, giving shoppers the assurance that their purchase does support sustainable fishing.

WWF-SASSI (Southern Africa Sustainable Seafood Initiative) is an awareness programme that aims to improve the conservation status of over-exploited seafood, by creating awareness amongst consumers and restaurants by means of a colour coded chart. WWF-SASSI recognises the MSC as the world’s leading ecolabel for wild-caught fish.

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