Walmart Defends Its Destructive Canned Tuna As Tesco Takes Action

Walmart defends its destructive canned tuna while Tesco, the largest UK retailer, takes action to clean up its canned tuna aisle.

by David Pinsky


Greenpeace ad highlighting the need for Walmart to clean up its tuna supply chain.

Greenpeace ad highlighting the need for Walmart to clean up its tuna supply chain.

On April 25, Greenpeace launched a campaign calling on Walmart to finally take action to clean up its destructive canned tuna. Greenpeace is working globally to transform an out-of-control tuna industry into a more sustainable and ethical one, starting with the world’s largest canned tuna company, Thai Union Group, and its brands and major buyers, like Walmart.

Unfortunately, Walmart has not given iron-clad assurances to its customers or the public about how it will address these issues. For years Walmart has known Greenpeace’s concerns and suggestions on how clean up its canned tuna operations. And for years, Walmart has failed to act responsibly.

Greenwashing at Its Very Best

Don’t be fooled by Walmart’s claims about sustainable seafood, particularly its public canned tuna policy. This policy is a “choose your own adventure” of sourcing requirements containing loopholes that must be welcome news for its destructive suppliers and industry-funded “sustainability” groups. As we said nearly one year ago: “Walmart’s sad attempt at a tuna sourcing policy statement […] does nothing to actually change the sustainability of the tuna found in its cans. It’s time for the company to stop being all talk and show us some real action.”

Walmart’s slow-going approach of “continuous improvement” smells like another greenwashing attempt to avoid cleaning up its canned tuna. Walmart touts its seafood sustainability and social responsibility goals, but when reports surface about egregious human rights abuses linked to its seafood supply chain, it fails to act with the speed and transparency needed to assure customers that it is addressing the problem.

Walmart won’t confirm publicly that the destructive and unethical Thai Union Group supplies its tuna, but we’ve looked into it for them and they absolutely do. While Walmart shirks responsibility and offers excuses for inaction, it continues to leave its customers and the public in the dark regarding how the company will ensure its canned tuna is sustainable and ethical.

Supermarkets Must Follow Tesco’s Lead and Demand Thai Union Clean Up Its Tuna

Meanwhile, the largest UK retailer Tesco made headlines for demanding that destructive canned tuna brand John West – owned by Thai Union – either clean up its act or Tesco will drop it from store shelves. If Walmart was to live up to its sustainability and social responsibility commitments, it would have no problem following suit. Walmart could put its global influence to work in a way that helps protect our oceans and seafood workers. The question on everyone’s mind remains if and when?

Despite growing concerns about destructive fishing and human rights abuses throughout the seafood industry, neither Walmart, nor any major North American retailer, has drawn a line in the sand to stop favoring destructive brands that occupy coveted shelf space. Laggards like Walmart continue to delay action, heeding the advice of industry-funded groups that package the status quo of ocean destruction with green bows and talking points rather than offering better options for their consumers. Walmart has significant buying power. Walmart could call on Thai Union, its U.S.-owned brand Chicken of the Sea, and other destructive brands linked to troubling fishing practices to clean up their tuna.

While it is often easiest for supermarkets to switch their own brand products to be more sustainable and ethical, they must not stop there. Major supermarkets must address all destructive brands on shelves, including Chicken of the Sea, Bumble Bee/Clover Leaf, and StarKist. These changes need to be cemented with a public commitment and policy so customers can have assurances that the products on store shelves aren’t linked to ocean destruction or seafood slavery scandals that are increasingly common in the news.

Attention shoppers: if you’re in the market for canned tuna, avoid destructive and questionable brands plaguing the tuna aisle. Refer to Greenpeace’s U.S. canned tuna guide or Greenpeace Canada’s canned tuna app.  

Join Over 59,000 People Calling on Walmart to Protect Our Oceans and Seafood Workers.

In less than two weeks, almost 60,000 people have called on Walmart to stop stalling and clean up its act. Sign this petition and join thousands of people demanding Walmart put our oceans and seafood workers first.



David Pinsky

By David Pinsky

David authors Greenpeace USA’s annual seafood sustainability report for the nation’s largest supermarkets, holding major companies accountable and shifting seafood practices that have global impacts on our oceans.

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