Walmart said it was making major strides toward its 2025 goal of sustainable fresh, frozen and shelf-stable seafood with the introduction of Great Value canned tuna as either Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified or, based on supplier reports, from a Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) actively working toward certification.
Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart said the private label offering, which will be available in U.S. stores in July, will serve as a first step to influence global practices around sustainable seafood and show other brands how they can be part of creating positive change.
“When Walmart says, ‘We’re committed to buying sustainable tuna,’ it sends a message loud and clear to the fishing vessels, to the captains and to the industry at large,” said Sean Reber, who leads Walmart’s global sourcing team on direct import programs for packaged food. “Our team has invested in research to help us better understand the value chain of tuna and ask the question, ‘What’s the right way to do this?’ ”
At a time when one-third of global fisheries have been fished beyond sustainable limits, according to the United Nations, Walmart is stressing the importance of suppliers and others doing their part to reduce overfishing, eliminate bycatch and support healthier oceans.
“Making sure affordable, high-quality tuna that meets these requirements, makes it all the way to the aisle is a very complex process,” said Jessica Baldini, buyer for Walmart U.S. shelf-stable tuna. “It takes alignment and collaboration with internal leadership and external stakeholders. There are a lot of people who have to be on board with the idea that ‘sustainability is what Walmart stands for.’ ”
Part of driving that change is accountability. Walmart is asking suppliers to report their progress using the Seafood Metrics System, which is managed by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership and helps measure and track supplier performance on sustainable sourcing.
Sustainability has been top of mind for Walmart. In February 2019, it revealed plans to reduce plastic waste by improving the sustainability of its private brand product packaging, with a mission to achieve 100% recyclable, reusable or industrially compostable packaging by 2025.