“As consumers continue to demand more information about the products they buy, companies that embrace transparency will be ahead of the pack. Those that don’t will inevitably need to catch up.”
—Neil Radix, Blueyou

In February 2017, Blueyou announced the first dual-certified Fair Trade and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) seafood product: canned skipjack tuna fished from the Maldives. The Maldives is square in the middle of the Indian Ocean—an area heavily fraught with fisheries management challenges. So how, and why, did Blueyou manage to improve transparency in their supply chains, achieving dual certification, for one of the most challenging species and regions?

“Simply put”, says Blueyou North America Managing Director Neil Radix, “building transparency is the right thing to do.” But of course, there’s more to it than just good will. In the following case study, Radix sheds light on the ways in which transparency has led to more effective business practices, the reports they use to showcase their work, and the reasons why a transparent supply chain puts them ahead of the curve when it comes to market trends. We heard from many organizations and companies we interviewed that transparency is simply a credible way to communicate a company’s good management practices to customers, investors, and supply chain partners. Read more background on transparency >>

Click on the topics below to read the Blueyou case study.

This conversation will continue at the 2017 SeaWeb Seafood Summit in Seattle, June 5-7, where Blueyou’s René Benguerel will speak in a session titled: Integrity of FIP Supply Chains: Why Traceability Matters & What Solutions Exist. We hope you will continue the discussion with us there.

The approach

Transparency allows for a story to be told about any product, seafood or otherwise. In our view, it’s important to tell the story about the programs we develop because it provides the end consumer with a much more complete picture about their purchases. As consumers continue to demand more information about the products they buy, companies that embrace the concept will be ahead of the pack. Those that don’t will inevitably need to catch up. In some cases, the story may not end up being all that positive, but the demand for information about products from the public will not go away. This dynamic, in turn, helps raise the bar on products and programs that are having a positive impact socially, environmentally, and economically.

The road to developing transparency about any product will continue to improve as technologies advance. Set a goal, map out the steps needed to reach your goal, and be flexible. Change can be difficult – take a step-by-step approach and focus on the steps needed to reach the end goal.

See examples of our transparent supply chains here and here.

As consumers continue to demand more information about the products they buy, companies that embrace the concept will be ahead of the pack.”

The catalyst

Simply put, building transparency is the right thing to do, so the thought process was relatively simple. There is also real market value generated from the communications and story-telling that can be created around a product. The demand for product information is only going to grow, so there’s a case to be made for why companies should become more engaged in their reporting.

Look at the positive aspects of the reporting rather than the tasks required to achieve it. For fisheries in particular, it’s the early steps in the supply chain that are the most difficult to secure. Once a raw material enters processing, a product is largely traceable. The critical step of securing auditable information about an individual fish to an individual vessel is difficult, particularly in the developing world.

Technology is changing the world at a torrid pace. Misleading or even false information relating to individual products can spread incredibly quickly via social media platforms. As markets are becoming increasingly concerned with sourcing ethics, it becomes equally if not more important to get in front of the issue and tell your story to your customers and ultimately the end user.

The actual reporting process for us was fairly simple. Since we fully embraced the importance of transparency from the start, it was a fairly easy piece to develop. The challenge lies in implementation, as there can be some unforeseen barriers that are difficult to pinpoint. It’s critical to establish trust with local resources and develop a plan that is implemented together.

Modernized fisheries can often have information instantly available through barcodes, cameras, or some other electronic form.  In the developing world, almost all recordkeeping is done by hand.  We faced a challenge of how we could ensure the information that was already being collected (vessel, landing site, grade, price, weight, fisher) would follow each fish through the supply chain.  We solved the problem by using individually numbered zip ties that are used to seal the doors of shipping containers.  The numbered tie/tag ID is physically attached to the jaw of each fish procured.  The tag ID number is then recorded alongside the other vital information about each individual fish.  Through processing, the tag ID information is retained and applied to the end product.  (see enclosed photo/infographic)

“…get in front of the issue and tell your story to your customers and ultimately the end user.”

How they prioritized

Our aim is to be as transparent as possible and report out the information as soon as it is available to us. That said, the information reported has to make sense so we would include any results or additional context required to have the details more easily digested by our customers and their associated supply chains.

Each step of the supply chain has a different focus in terms of what information they are looking for. Importers and distributors tend to focus on species, weight, and region of catch, while end users tend to focus on the story of individual fishers. For us it is important to try and have as much information available as possible so each step of the supply chain can focus on what is important to them.

The report out process is still under development. We had to build some structure around the mechanisms of recording the information so we are now working on putting that into electronic form to be more easily shared.

“Each step of the supply chain has a different focus in terms of what information they are looking for.”

The return on investment

It all boils down to a core value we have that is finally becoming recognized as an essential element to existing and emerging businesses within the seafood sector. We have a better handle on our operations, we are better positioned to respond to changes in company or government policies, our customers are able to provide reliable information throughout their supply chain and our staff are proud to be working within a forward thinking organization.

“It all boils down to a core value we have that is finally becoming recognized as an essential element to existing and emerging businesses within the seafood sector.”

Adapting to the future

It’s important to remain flexible, and sometimes expect the unexpected. Technologies are dynamic and often change more quickly than they can be implemented. Try not to operate under known assumptions as this can lead to one potentially making an incorrect decision. Develop the work with trusted colleagues and allies and be open to staying on top of a continually evolving field of work. Be adaptable to change and don’t expect a one-size-fits-all type of approach.

“It’s important to remain flexible, and sometimes expect the unexpected.”

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