Walmart Must Take Responsibility for Its Canned Tuna

by David Pinsky

When unsuspecting Walmart customers reach for a can of Great Value or Chicken of the Sea tuna, they don’t know that a trail of destruction has brought that can from sea to shelf.

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

Walmart. The largest retailer in the world. Known for its low prices, the true cost of its products often go unnoticed and harm people and the planet. Its canned tuna products are a perfect case in point. When unsuspecting Walmart customers reach for a can of Great Value or Chicken of the Sea tuna, they don’t know that a trail of destruction has brought that can from sea to shelf. These products are supplied by the world’s biggest canned tuna company, and the target of Greenpeace’s global campaign – Thai Union Group.

Thai Union continues to allow wasteful and destructive fishing practices that attract, capture, and kill other marine life including turtles and sharks – while driving some species of tuna towards extinction. Thai Union has been connected to shocking labor and human rights abuses in some of its supply chains, with too many workers exploited, abused, and even forced to work on ships for months or years at a time.

Given Walmart’s connection to Thai Union, Walmart’s current tuna sourcing policies and practices are inadequate at ensuring its customers are getting sustainable products. Of further concern, like Thai Union, Walmart has been named in scandal after scandal, and does not deny that its seafood may be connected to forced labor.

Walmart’s tuna failed Greenpeace’s U.S. and Canada tuna rankings due to sustainability and labor concerns. Every day that Walmart continues to get its tuna from companies like Thai Union that refuse to supply sustainable and ethical products, it is supporting ocean destruction, could be selling products connected to human rights abuse, and is breaking its own commitments to protect the environment and workers.

Empty Promises and Inaction

Philippine Purse Seine Fishing Operation

For years Greenpeace has tried to engage Walmart in Canada and the U.S. so that the company makes the right decision, lives up to its sustainability and social responsibility commitments, and provides more sustainable, ethical canned tuna. The company published new seafood procurement policies for both sides of the border, but despite promises of better tuna products to come, Walmart’s commitments lack the ability to ensure sustainable and ethical tuna sourcing.

Given its size, Walmart is very effective at forcing its suppliers to offer cheaper products, but that seems about as far as Walmart is willing to go. The company has yet to demonstrate through policies and procurement how its low cost canned tuna products do not destroy our oceans or put workers at risk. While its subsidiaries in other markets around the world have made some progress on sourcing more sustainable tuna, Walmart’s U.S. and Canada operations are falling woefully short and its leadership does not appear to be concerned.

It is time that Walmart put its global influence to work in a positive way. That can happen starting today. Walmart cares about its image, and hearing from its customers and the public is a powerful way to get the company’s attention. With your help, Walmart can take the action it should have years ago to protect our oceans and seafood workers.

Add Your Voice: Demand Walmart Takes Action to Protect Our Oceans

Today, Greenpeace launched a petition and an advertisement campaign in Walmart’s hometown newspaper and in key markets across Canada. We are calling on Walmart’s global CEO and President Doug McMillon, Canadian CEO & President Dirk Van den Berghe, and senior executives to take action. No longer can Walmart profit at the expense of our planet or people. The time for excuses from Walmart is over.

Ad in Walmart's Hometown Paper

Ad in Walmart’s Hometown Paper

As a major customer of Thai Union, Walmart can demand more sustainable, ethical tuna. Walmart can grant assurances to its customers that it is serious about protecting our oceans and ensuring the fair treatment of workers throughout its supply chain, including those working in its own stores. Walmart can use its buying power to help transform the global tuna industry for the better, including impacting the way tuna is caught. This will benefit our oceans and significantly reduce the chances that human rights abuses or forced labor occurs onboard vessels.

Walmart may be great on the “Save Money” part of its slogan, but the “Live Better” part is seriously lacking. It’s time to put people and our oceans first. While it will take more than one company like Walmart committing to change, as the world’s largest retailer, it sends a strong message and one that it has failed to deliver.

If you agree that it is time for Walmart to stop cutting corners at the expense of workers and the planet so it can offer customers a cheap can of tuna, then join us today by signing this petition to its senior leadership.

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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