ning3″ src=”http://www.sustainablesushi.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/strip_coal_mining3-300×200.jpg” alt=”" width=”257″ height=”171″ />
In an age where we are pushing our planet’s limits in search of resources, we find more and more poignancy in questions of corporate social responsibility. What obligations, either ethical or legal, should govern an a extractive operation as it roots around in the rainforest, slurps up the oceans, or grinds its way into the Earth’s crust in search of coltan, cod, or crude oil?
We have reached a point where the simple ability to access a resource can no longer be interpreted as right to do so. This kind of anachronistic thinking has gotten us into a world of trouble. The fact is that we are an incredibly powerful species, with the technological capacity to perform jaw-dropping feats. We can build immense transit tunnels below the ocean, launch intricate networks of satellites to enrich communication, and splice vegetable DNA into a chicken. This kind of space-age tech lends perceived legitimacy to business plans which make endeavors like offshore oil drilling appear safe and massively profitable. A few people make a lot of money, something goes horribly wrong, and we all pay the price.
The toxic results of this kind of unmitigated rapacity have been spurting into the Gulf of Mexico for weeks now. A small group of people decided that they were willing to gamble with the health of our planet for their own personal gain. We should be furious. Who do these pompous egoists think they are, and why, for God’s sake, are we allowing them to compromise our future for their own profit?
This appallingly selfish approach to business must be stopped. Given that we live together on a finite planet, the corporations of the future must be those that are willing to take responsibility for their actions.
The concept of sustainable seafood is predicated on the idea that seafood purveyors, which have for decades served as implements of oceanic destruction, must start standing up for the planet regardless of traditional consumer preferences. The fact is that the average seafood diner or sushi patron simply does not have the time to educate him/herself on the environmental impacts of the vast and ever-changing array of seafood options available to consumers in today’s world. Diabolically efficient fishing technology coupled with cheap refrigeration and well-organized global freight networks allow us access to countless seafood items for all corners of the globe, some environmentally acceptable and some quite the opposite. As such, chefs, merchants, and restaurateurs that take the initiative to defend the ocean and its future. After all, if you work in the seafood industry, it is the ocean that is providing your paycheck.
Thankfully, we are seeing a gradual shift towards this more responsible way of thinking. In the seafood world, I can think of no better example than Martin Reed and his sustainable seafood delivery business, ilovebluesea.com. Reed shoulders the burden of sorting the proverbial wheat from the chaff himself, so his customers really can’t make a mistake in terms of the environmental repercussions of their choices. Ilovebluesea.com refuses to offer seafood items that are in the Seafood Watch “avoid” category or on the Greenpeace red list, and demands transparency and traceability on the part of his suppliers. Gear type, catch location, and other important information must all be provided before ilovebluesea.com agrees to offer the fish. The company is even addressing packaging and shipping issues by using recyclable and/or biodegradable containers rather than Styrofoam and similar petro-synthetic nightmares.
A much larger company also recently took an impressive step towards corporate social responsibility in the seafood world. Maersk, the shipping giant, has declared that it will not transport any whale products, any shark products (including fins), any Patagonian or Antarctic toothfish, or any orange roughy on its ships due to concerns about the sustainability of these products. This is a very powerful message, especially when one considers that Maersk ships about 20% of all of the world’s internationally traded sea-borne seafood products.
The Greenpeace seafood retailer rankings also help to shed some light on seafood purveyors that are – or are not, as the case may be – doing the right thing. Companies like Target and Wegmans are taking positive steps and working towards truly sustainable seafood operations, while others, like Costco, are charging full steam, hands clapped over ears and yammering loudly, propelling us all in our mutual handcart down to Hades.
We obviously do not have the legal framework in place to reign in this kind of behavior. Otherwise, one could surmise, we would never have had a Deepwater explosion, and Costco wouldn’t be selling Chilean seabass and orange roughy in the first place. Given that, it is up to us as consumers to act.
We need to reward businesses that are making the change towards legitimate corporate social responsibility. Buy seafood from honest purveyors that don’t try to pull the wool over our eyes. Some companies are willingly selling out our oceans to line their bank accounts – so why are we shopping there?
If you want to make your money from my ocean, you’d better treat it with respect. It’s about responsibility, jerk.