Fish Forever: Building Sustainable Enterprises at the Grassroots

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Typical corporate sustainability programs drive change from the top down. The multinational company sets targets and standards for its global supply chain, and aims to improve sustainability down to the level of workers and farmers. However, there are large sections of population at the bottom rung that are not even a part of the mainstream supply chain, and remain excluded from the sustainability programs.

This is where the role of a conservation nonprofit such as Rare comes in, which aims to address the needs of the people at the lowest rung of the ladder, and help them build sustainable enterprises from the bottom up. Rare’s chief executive, Brett Jenks, says that the organization’s work begins where the developed-world mainstream supply chains end.

Rare’s connection with global business primarily remains in the form of its major donors, which include former Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson and his wife, Wendy; Bloomberg Philanthropies, the foundation of former New York mayor and media tycoon Michael Bloomberg; and investor and environmentalist Jeremy Grantham. The Waitt Foundation, led by former Gateway CEO Ted Waitt, is financing Rare’s latest project called Fish Forever.

Fish Forever is a partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund and the Sustainable Fisheries Group at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). The initiative is an important example of how sustainable business practices can be used in areas that are beyond the influence of large corporations.

Fish Forever project is being launched in five countries, including Belize, Brazil, Indonesia, Mozambique and the Philippines. It will focus on fishers with just a single boat or two, and the ones who fish from shore. These largely poor, small-scale fishers account for half of all fish caught in developing countries. Yet, most of these local suppliers are disorganized, overexploited or even collapsed.

Every fisherman is out there trying to catch the last fish, according to Jenks. John Mimikakis, who oversees oceans programs at Environmental Defense calls it an environmental and a humanitarian crisis.

Each of the Fish Forever partners brings expertise to the project to address this crisis. Environmental Defense has been a pioneer in rebuilding fisheries, Rare specializes in mobilizing communities in poor countries on behalf of conservation, and the scientists at UCSB are experts in monitoring and measuring the health of fisheries.

The program involves state and national governments to give exclusive fishing rights to local fishers in community fishing areas. This gives the community a good reason to adopt conservation practices because the community will be the direct beneficiary of these practices. The incentive can protect the long term value of the area.

Source: The Guardian

Image Credit: Flickr via NatalieMaynor