Greenpeace report finds supermarkets failing on human rights in their tuna supply chains
December 2, 2021
Greenpeace urges action on human rights and sustainability
Washington, DC – In Greenpeace USA’s latest report on tuna in US supermarkets, “The High Cost of Cheap Tuna: US Supermarkets, Sustainability, and Human Rights at Sea,” all 16 of the retailer chains surveyed received failing scores. The report, which for the first time assesses the human rights policies applied to retailers’ tuna supply chains, also found that many companies have continued to ignore their responsibilities in this area or have opted for only surface-level changes that have not delivered meaningful impacts. Despite these meager improvements to seafood sustainability policies, the retail sector has a long way to go.
“The seafood industry has come under more scrutiny as consumers better understand the links between environmental damage and human rights abuses,” said Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar. “Consumers are demanding that their retailers act sustainably and ethically. The report offers some encouragement that we are progressing in the right direction. However, it is clear that a large amount of work lies ahead to get these corporations to make the changes necessary to ensure they are protecting human lives and the environment.”
While all companies failed, Aldi–which has a comprehensive stand-alone forced labor policy explicitly covering all stages of its supply chain–received the highest score in the human rights category. Its strong performance in tuna procurement and advocacy propelled the retailer to the top spot overall. Ahold Delhaize, which placed second overall, was one of the few retailers to express an explicit commitment to collective bargaining. It also scored highly for its auditing and traceability work.
Whole Foods, which scored highest on the environmental side, had several significant gaps on human rights due to underdeveloped policies that dragged its overall score down to fourth. Hy-Vee, which ranked 5th overall, stood out as the lone retailer to commit to publicly releasing a full list of fishing vessels in its supply chain. Target, Walmart, Costco, Albertsons, Giant Eagle, H-E-B, Hy-Vee, Kroger, Meijer, Publix, SE Grocers, Sprouts, and Wegmans were also assessed in the report.
The survey results are based on the retailers’ answers to 38 questions in the categories of tuna procurement policy, traceability, advocacy and initiatives, human rights and labor protections, current sourcing, and customer education and labeling. Seven of the 16 retailers did not complete the survey. In the absence of a response, Greenpeace evaluated them using publicly available information.
“It is not enough for retailers to remain silent or solely focused on addressing sustainability issues. Human Rights and sustainability must be addressed simultaneously and with equal urgency,” added Hocevar. “We urge these retailers to take ownership of this issue and meet their customers ‘where they are’ by providing them the opportunity to enjoy their seafood with a guilt-free conscience. Retailers like Whole Foods, which leads on environmental sustainability, and large corporations like Costco, Walmart and Target must become voices for change on human rights issues.”
The U.S. is the largest seafood importer in the world. Consumer demand for tuna has risen steadily while fish stocks have declined due to overfishing and ocean warming driven by climate change. As the commercial fishing frenzy escalates to meet global demand, so have reports of forced labor and human rights violations aboard fishing vessels. The weak human rights policies governing US retailers’ supply chains have left many loopholes for migrant fishers to be subjected to a wide range of exploitative labor practices, from debt bondage to physical abuse, and even allegations of suspected murder on the high seas.
To read the entire report and view the ranking, click here: https://www.greenpeace.org/
Contact: Tanya Brooks, Greenpeace USA Senior Communications Specialist, P: 703-342-9226
Greenpeace USA is part of a global network of independent campaigning organizations that use peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future. This year, as we celebrate our 50th Anniversary, Greenpeace USA is committed to rebuilding the country’s unjust social, environmental, and economic systems from the ground up to address the climate crisis, advance racial justice, and build an economy that puts people first. Learn more at www.greenpeace.org/usa.