Making the Responsible Choice: A Collaborative Effort to Eradicate Human Trafficking, Forced Labor in Seafood Supply Chains

Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice initiative is more than a commitment to food safety and protecting the environment, it’s also about responsible sourcing and that includes the safety and well-being of the men and women working throughout the supply chain. In light of the exposure of human trafficking in Southeast Asia and Thailand over the past couple of years and its relation to the seafood industry, Hy-Vee and FishWise urge customers and businesses to support and take interest in how their seafood is being sourced.

The key to responsible sourcing is knowledge. Often times, leading seafood buyers across the globe are indirectly supporting mistreatment of laborers by buying and selling seafood from unregulated markets. One of the biggest issues related to this issue in U.S. seafood procurement is traceability. Without knowledge of where the product came from, companies cannot verify supply chain compliance with labor laws and human rights standards. The issue is further complicated in seafood supply chains when demand for low prices undermines responsible business practices, and a lack of regulations and inadequate oversight open the door for various labor abuses.

Hy-Vee is continuously working to improve transparency in its seafood supply chains by ensuring their products are traceable back to the point of harvest — whether it’s a fishery or farming operation. To this end, Hy-Vee regularly collects information about the chain of custody and sustainability of seafood products from their suppliers, and Hy-Vee’s seafood vendors have been notified of the commitment to responsible sourcing and traceability.

As a customer, there are several ways you can be part of the conversation. First, ask questions when purchasing seafood in a store or at a restaurant. Questions related to where the seafood came from, how they trace their seafood and if the seafood is a responsibly sourced item produced with fair labor standards are a good place to start. This sends the message that traceability is important to you and encourages business owners to be held accountable. From there, you can take action by supporting retailers and restaurants that are committed to responsible sourcing.

Hy-Vee has committed to selling responsibly sourced fresh and frozen seafood that is rated as a Green “Best Choice” or a Yellow “Good Alternative” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, certified to an environmental standard equivalent to these ratings, or sourced from credible, time-bound improvement projects. You can make informed and sustainable seafood purchasing decisions by utilizing the seafood buying guides on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website at seafoodwatch.org or the Seafood Watch app on your smartphone.

In addition to customer concern, all companies must implement responsible sourcing plans to ensure that human trafficking, forced labor and other human rights violations are not present in their supply chains. U.S. retailers, foodservice providers, distributors and others in the supply chain can use their buying power to lead change in the entire seafood industry.

There are several steps U.S. seafood businesses can take to ensure they are not buying seafood associated with human rights abuses. First and foremost, organizations should ensure products can be traced to origin and names and addresses of all entities that handled the product can be identified. Companies can also support labor audits through all steps in the supply chain, ensure each link in the supply chain makes a documentable pledge to customers to avoid labor abuse, share concerns and stipulate procurement on the supplier’s ability to regulate human trafficking and labor violations, and finally, communicate clearly with customers. This entails providing the origin of fisheries and the actions taken to guarantee products are not connected to human rights abuses, labor violations or environmental damage.

Hy-Vee has taken steps to ensure responsible sourcing through the Responsible Choice initiative. With collaborative efforts, we can all help to eradicate human trafficking and forced labor in today’s global seafood industry.

For more information visit FishWise’s Human Trafficking, Forced Labor Q & A:
http://fishwise.org/index.php/press/blog/286-human-trafficking-forced-labor-and-seafood-q-a