Greenpeace Calls Out Fishy Supermarkets

Greenpeace released their semiannual Supermarket Seafood Sustainability Scorecard today. Find a link to the entire .pdf version of their report here. Or see the basic rankings from that report after the jump. Wegmans took the top spot. I spoke to Jeanne Colleluori, its Communications & Media Specialist about their rationale for striving for sustainability, while most other supermarkets do not, according to Greenpeace.

seafoodrankings.PNG

As you can see, Greenpeace does not grade on a curve. None of the supermarkets have yet to achieve a "Good" rating. But at least several passed, and none have gotten worse. With so few supermarket chains caring about seafood sustainability, why has Wegmans taken steps towards this goal?

According to Colleluori, Wegmans has long been concerned with sustainability. Greenpeace's rankings simply gave the supermarket an opportunity have a dialogue with a prominent environmental group and focus its efforts. When her company considers sustainability issues, they have a three-pronged approach:

1. How it affects customers
2. How it affects the environment/planet
3. How it affects the company

That means if a really wacky sustainability imitative was being pushed by an environmental group that couldn't possibly be profitable, Wegmans would balk. Although she could not cite any specific statistics, she indicated that this particular initiative has not had a negative effect on the company.

You might think that observing this practice would increase their seafood prices. If it has, Colleluori indicated that Wegmans has not noticed. She could not attribute any decrease in demand to the initiative. If anything, when it comes to seafood sustainability, they've found that consumer demand supports the initiative. Their customers notice. She said:

We have put our sustainable seafood sourcing philosophy on a poster in all our stores. We also have our sustainable seafood product chart on another poster in all of our stores.

They also train their employees to be educated on the issue so they can have conversations with customers about it. She added:

Our store employees hear from our customers that they appreciate our efforts.

I used to go to a Wegmans located in the town where I went to college and thought it was a great supermarket. It's good to hear that such initiatives can be relatively profit-neutral for companies that decide to make such changes.

As consumers continue to care more about environmental issues, I would expect that they will also be willing to pay a little more for products that adhere to certain environmental standards. The supermarkets at the bottom of the list probably have yet to feel any significant decrease in their customer bases due to a backlash from environmentally conscious consumers. But unless consumer sentiment about environmental concerns reverses direction, they might feel it before long.

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Daniel Indiviglio was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 through 2011. He is now the Washington, D.C.-based columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He is also a 2011 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow through the Phillips Foundation. More

Indiviglio has also written for Forbes. Prior to becoming a journalist, he spent several years working as an investment banker and a consultant.

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