U.S. foodservice companies should step up their game when it comes to providing sustainable and ethical seafood options to their customers, according to a new report from Greenpeace.
"Many foodservice companies have avoided accountability for the seafood they sell for far too long," said report co-author David Pinsky, a Greenpeace oceans campaigner. "These companies feed millions of people in university cafeterias, corporate dining halls, restaurants, and hospitals, yet consumers are kept in the dark about whether their seafood is sustainable and ethical. It's time to shine a light on these companies and demand action."
For its "Sea of Distress" report, the environmental group evaluated the seafood sustainability of 15 major broadline distributors, or those that provide customers with a variety of food products, and foodservice management companies. Just three companies, Aramark, Compass Group and Sodexo, earned passing scores, albeit low ones.
Those three foodservice management companies were the only ones to return a completed survey on their seafood practices.
Greenpeace also reached out to the broadline distributors Food Services of America, Gordon Food Service, Maines Paper & Food Service, Performance Food Group, Reinhart Foodservice, Shamrock Foods, Sysco and US Foods as well as the foodservice management companies AVI Foodsystems, Centerplate, Elior North America and Delaware North.
The 12 firms failed Greenpeace's assessment, which was also based on external information from annual reports, industry press, seafood catalogs and other sources.
Reinhart Foodservice -- which is based in Rosemont, Illinois and has high-profile clients that include Burger King, Subway and the Defense Logistics Agency-- tied with Elior North America for having the worst sustainability rating of 5 out of 100 total points.
"In addition to sharks and Chilean sea bass, Reinhart sources bigeye and yellowfin tuna--stocks that are in need of recovery," Greenpeace's report reads. "Worst of all, Reinhart sources bluefin tuna: a severely overfished species red listed by Seafood Watch for every single stock in the world. This suggests Reinhart either does not prioritize sustainable, ethical seafood, or is not concerned with the implications of sourcing threatened species."
Reinhart provided the following statement to Progress Illinois in response to Greenpeace's report:
For more than 40 years Reinhart Foodservice L.L.C. (Reinhart) has delivered exceptionally high-quality products, personal service and value to its customers every day. As part of our commitment to our customers and the communities in which we operate, Reinhart has a strict supplier policy that all Reinhart suppliers are required to meet or exceed, including regular compliance reviews, adherence to Reinhart's Supplier Code of Conduct and with all applicable, local, state and federal laws. Non-compliance with these standards can result in suspension and/or termination of a supplier's relationship with our company.
Working closely with our partners including the National Fisheries Institute and the International Foodservice Distributors Association, we remain committed to doing our part to ensure that the industry continues to evaluate and actively strengthen awareness and training for all companies involved in the seafood supply chain.
Aramark, Compass Group and Sodexo received passing scores in the low 40s for their transparency, advocacy efforts around fishery reform and their sustainability sourcing requirements, including their use of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch purchasing standards.
Aramark and Compass Group were also lauded for having some sort of commitment to sourcing sustainable canned tuna. Sodexo, however, has no such commitment.
On the issue of canned tuna, Greenpeace has a global campaign pushing the Thai Union Group to clean up its supply chains. The Thailand-based firm is the largest canned tuna producer and owns the U.S. tuna brand Chicken of the Sea.
Thai Union, according to Greenpeace, has been "linked to egregious human rights violations" and "has been deemed a 'keystone actor in marine ecosystems' for its disproportionately large impact on ocean ecosystems."
Of the companies cited in the report, Thai Union reportedly supplies Sysco, Compass Group, Gordon Food Service and Shamrock Foods.
Greenpeace's report concludes that the "U.S. foodservice industry as a whole has failed on traceability, incentivizes consumption with discount programs for bulk purchasing without regard for environmental or social impacts, and has prevented smaller companies from securing better products through large companies like Sysco and US Foods."
"Across the board, the industry is failing to address potential human rights abuses in seafood supply chains abroad, and must improve its treatment of U.S. workers, including actions such as paying employees a living wage," the report continues.
Greenpeace argues that U.S. foodservice companies should at the very least monitor their impact on oceans and seafood workers.
"Poor traceability continues to plague the foodservice industry, and many of these companies cannot even provide source farm or fishery information and other key data about the seafood they procure," the report reads. "This is a significant problem. Foodservice companies must work urgently to improve traceability and reform their policies and practices to prioritize sustainable, ethical seafood."