H-E-B enhances partnership with EDF to strengthen seafood policy

The effort improves H-E-B's sourcing standards and transparency for all fresh, frozen, prepared and shelf-stable seafood

H-E-B and EDF are reeling in some big news.

The San Antonio-based retailer, in partnership with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a prominent, international conservation organization, has strengthened its commitment to create an industry-leading sustainability program dedicated to sourcing top-quality seafood from socially and environmentally responsible fisheries and farms.

This commitment draws from EDF’s expertise and H-E-B’s longstanding efforts to continually improve its sourcing standards and transparency for all fresh, frozen, prepared and shelf-stable seafood. With this robust sustainability partnership in place since 2012, H-E-B’s updated policy enhances efforts to better source certified wild-caught and farmed seafood; expand traceability systems for all seafood products; combat human rights abuses in seafood supply chains and support workers’ rights; and promote environmental and ethical integrity within its canned tuna supply.

“With this new policy, H-E-B reaffirms its commitment to remaining at the forefront of sustainable and responsible seafood sourcing. We have been with them every step of the way and are excited to continue working with them on these complex and dynamic issues,” said Tim Fitzgerald, Director of Impact for EDF’s Oceans program.

Among the most recent policy updates, H-E-B revised its sourcing grid, one of the most detailed in the industry, to include information about method of catch. An easy way for customers to find information about all seafood bought and sold in H-E-B stores, the grid also lists production methods, sustainability certifications and country of origin. Plans are in place to update the grid at least twice per year. This adds to substantial traceability efforts already in place, which prevent illegal, unreported or unregulated seafood from reaching its stores. Whenever suppliers don’t meet sustainability requirements, H-E-B will remove the related seafood products from inventory and terminate business with companies in violation of these standards.

Fresh or frozen, H-E-B stocks its coolers with healthy seafood from certified fisheries and farms around the world that comply to some of the industry’s highest sustainability standards. This includes sources that are rated green or yellow on EDF’s Seafood Selector, or are certified sustainable by prominent seafood-industry certification bodies such as the Marine Stewardship Council and the Global Aquaculture Alliance, which encourage improvements to fisheries and farms, set catch limits, promote scientific research and reduce accidental capture of species.

As one of the biggest independently-owned retailers in Texas, H-E-B will continue using its voice as a large seafood buyer and environmental steward to influence change across the industry. Seafood sustainability is a top priority for the company, and H-E-B pledges to regularly update and enhance its policies with help from organizations such as EDF, which strategically advise the retailer in its efforts to support and uphold some of the industry’s highest standards.

“The health and management of individual fisheries and farms are considered in all or our sourcing decisions,” said Jason Driskill, Director of Seafood for H-E-B. “We continue to work with suppliers and fisheries that demonstrate a commitment to environmental stewardship, social responsibility, animal welfare and food safety. We owe it to our customers to provide a fully traceable and transparent seafood supply they can trust.”

With more than half of the world’s seafood production coming from aquaculture, H-E-B’s farmed seafood gets stringent third-party certification to verify numerous standards, including water and feed quality. As an added measure, the company conducts further independent inspections for farmed product from Asia, ensuring the seafood comes from certified producers.

Sourcing locally from the thriving seafood ecosystem in its backyard, H-E-B is the largest retail buyer of Gulf seafood in Texas, upholding its commitment to support fishing communities throughout the Lone Star State. Further backing its partners along the Texas coast, H-E-B was the first major retailer to offer fresh, responsibly harvested seafood under the Gulf Wild brand, a partnership that launched in 2012.

Supply chain concerns for canned tuna products remain a troubling issue throughout the industry. Each year, Americans eat an estimated one billion pounds of canned and pouched tuna, according to the National Fisheries Institute. Extending its policies to the shelf, all brands of H-E-B’s private-label tuna can be traced back to the vessel and capture location, using its “Trace My Catch” tool. All H-E-B brand tuna is third-party certified, which means it comes from fisheries that use approved fishing gear to minimize accidental capture of species to include dolphins, sharks, rays, and turtles. Outside its private label, nearly all canned tuna sold at its stores comes from suppliers that work with leading conservation organizations encouraging responsible fishing practices.

Ensuring more than product quality, H-E-B’s policy has strict labor guidelines for suppliers across all departments, including seafood. To combat human-rights abuses, H-E-B adopted a zero-tolerance policy to help abolish child labor and human trafficking, and ensure all work is voluntary and that workers are guaranteed rights such as fair wages, safe working conditions, and equal and fair treatment.

For seafood to remain a viable food option, improving the health of our oceans is paramount. The World Ocean Network estimates that 6.5 million tons of litter enters the world’s oceans each year. Operating an environmentally conscious company, H-E-B has stiff sustainability practices to reduce waste. In 2018, H-E-B diverted more than 473 million pounds of waste through recycling materials such as cardboard, paper, food waste and truck tires. This includes more than one million pounds of plastic collected from store operations and customers at recycling bins placed in stores, an effort the retailer plans to expand. Further engaging with its customers and communities, H-E-B and its Partners regularly support environmentally-friendly efforts, including giving away more than 200,000 reusable bags annually on Earth day. A more detailed look at H-E-B’s environmental practices can be found here.


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