Good News: Foodservice Giant Aramark Commits to Supplying More Responsible Tuna

by David Pinsky

November 5, 2015

Bowing to pressure from student groups, the company has promised to clean up its tuna sourcing in a matter of months.

University of Minnesota Students

University of Minnesota students were among the national movement calling on Aramark to only serve sustainable tuna.

Aramark, one of the most popular foodservice companies in the United States, announced that it will that it will supply more responsible tuna by April 2016. This move follows similar commitments last year from the world’s largest foodservice company, Compass Group and its subsidiary Bon Appétit.

This is big news!

Aramark supplies food and dining services to major clients like universities, K-12 schools, corporate campuses and hospitals, serving over 2 billion meals every year. The company buys its seafood from big food distributors like SYSCO, which sold $2.4 billion worth of seafood in 2014.

The United States is the biggest consumer of canned tuna in the world, and Aramark serves up millions of pounds of tuna each year. Sadly, the global tuna industry is emptying our oceans of fish, harming marine life and even exploiting workers. There are more responsible ways to catch tuna that protect not only our oceans, but also the workers worldwide that catch tuna. As a major tuna buyer, Aramark’s decision to only source from providers using these sustainable methods sends an important industry-wide message.

Student Power Leads the Way to Victory

This would not have been achieved without student power. Hundreds of students nationwide have joined the call for sustainable tuna, imploring dining services staff at major universities like University of Minnesota, University of North Carolina Wilmington, and Old Dominion University to switch to sustainable tuna. These schools have contracts with Aramark and it is clear that the message went up the food chain from those schools to Aramark’s headquarters.

More than 45 colleges and high schools nationwide called on Aramark to fix its tuna and community groups in Philadelphia, Phoenix, Dallas, Huntington Beach and the San Francisco Bay Area joined in solidarity. Students held more than 20 meetings with Aramark dining services staff, gathered petitions, held movie screenings and published letters to the editor to educate their peers about out-of-control global tuna fisheries and the solutions at hand.

Letter to the Editor

Letter to the editor at University of Minnesota, which is one of Aramark’s largest university contracts.

What’s Next for Aramark and Other Foodservice Providers

Aramark’s announcement is a big move toward more responsible tuna sourcing, and the company should be commended for its efforts. Next, Aramark needs to develop a robust policy that guides its purchasing practices, as it currently relies solely on eco-certifications like the Marine Stewardship Council. There are serious human rights and labor abuses connected with the tuna industry, and as a progressive company, Aramark needs to ensure the workers throughout all its operations are treated fairly.

Following Aramark’s commitment, all eyes are on Sodexo, the third-largest foodservice company in the country. Will Sodexo lead the way toward a healthier ocean, or be associated with destructive tuna fisheries harming our oceans and industry workers?

The time for Sodexo and others to follow suit is right now, as Thai Union Group — the world’s largest tuna producer, owner of brands like Chicken of the Sea in the United States — is reeling from high profile scandals about human trafficking and forced labor in its supply chains. Compass Group, Aramark, Sodexo and other foodservice companies would be wise to ensure their products are not connected to Thai Union’s long record of human rights and environmental abuses.

If you’re ready to join the movement to transform the global tuna industry, check out the Ocean Action Team on Greenwire to connect with volunteers in your area.

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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