Seafood companies may swim in different waters than other food producers from a sustainability perspective, but it doesn't mean they're immune to a sea change in their operations.
Concerns about the future of tuna fishing came to a head in 2008, and drove the seafood industry to pull together and form a lobal coalition to address the issues.
Chicken of the Sea teamed up with competitors Bumble Bee and Starkist, scientists from WWF and other institutions and representatives of the fishing community to form the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), with the goal of promoting sustainable tuna fishing and ecosystem health and eliminating illegal tuna catching.
While it was undertaking its own efforts, such as ensuring dolphin-safe tuna fishing and prohibiting shark finning aboard its supplier vessels (a process where the fins are retained and the remaining carcass is discarded at sea) Chicken of the Sea realized it lacked a systematic approach to sustainability.
So in 2011, it embarked on a year-long effort to document programs and collect data that would give it a better idea, formalized a new supplier code of conduct and shared sustainability challenges and opportunities with retailers, suppliers and consumers.
Emissions from freight
"We looked into supply chain operations, we looked at freight for incoming ingredients, packaging and finished product," said Jennifer Woofter with Strategic Sustainability Consulting, who was hired to analyze the company's carbon footprint. "It was quite comprehensive. We looked at ocean and intermodal freight transportation, which accounts for 80 percent of its carbon footprint."
Transportation turned out to be the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Until the 1980s Chicken of the Sea's tuna processing operations were primarily based in San Diego, where it originated in 1914. It was one of the last canneries to leave town when it shifted operations to the American Samoa. When a Thai seafood conglomerate bought the company, the bulk of its tuna fishing and processing shifted to Thailand, except for one tuna plant in Lyons, Ga.
With half of its tuna processed in Thailand and shipped elsewhere, ocean freight accounts for most of Chicken of the Sea's transportation emissions. Aside from freight, the balance of its emissions was mostly from plant operations. The Lyons plant handles the other half of its tuna processing.
Shifting operations from American Samoa to Lyons helped reduce the footprint, according to Erin Mrozek, consumer marketing manager at Chicken of the Sea.
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