Is Government Trailing Industry on CSR?

Campaigners for sustainable fishing are waiting to see if the UK Government will change its mind on how it sources fish.

Government buying standards, out any day now, have been criticised by activists for a lack of commitment to buying sustainable fish.

The Good Food for our Money Campaign brings together 60 health, environmental and welfare organisations that want better sustainability standards in food bought by Government.

From a CSR perspective, the government is trailing high-profile and household name brands including Marks & Spencer and Sodexo – which have much higher sustainability standards. The Coalition Government’s preferred option for fish buying is that 60% of seafood bought for Central Government will have to meet sustainability standards.

The standards cover around a third of public sector catering – including prisons, the armed forces and government departments. However, campaigners point out that with only a 60% sustainability requirement on a third of public sector food that adds up to a paltry 19% of all Government sourced foodstuffs.

Campaigners want to see 100% sustainable seafood standards and point out that in addition to lagging behind household retailers’ CSR standards Government is even trailing pet food manufacturers.

Earlier this month Mars Petcare launched Marine Stewardship Council certified pet food covering its Whiskas and Sheba brands. The company has promised that it will use only sustainably sourced fish by 2020. This is an important element of the company’s CSR programme.

And CSR leadership on this issue is also being demonstrated by other high profile organisations. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) for the 2012 Olympics has included sustainability within its standards for food served at the games. It has included a commitment to serve 100% demonstrably sustainable seafood.

Campaigners are angry that public money is being spent without a better commitment to sustainability.

Alex Jackson from the Good Food for our Money Campaign said: “The Government must make it compulsory for all seafood which is bought by the taxpayer and served in public sector institutions to be proven to be sustainable.”

In a recent stunt, workers from charity Sustain sent personal cheques for 83 pence each to the Prime Minister and each member of the cabinet. They say this represents the cost for Cabinet members to be served only fish from sustainable sources at meetings and functions.

Campaigners said that they knew lots of caterers who have saved money by switching to less endangered fish species. They claim that even 83 pence a head is an overestimate.

The strength of feeling around the issue of sustainable fishing and marine conservation is huge. The Government has an opportunity here to beef up its standards and commit to sourcing 100% of its fish from sustainable sources.

Photo credit: Charlie Brewer