Mitsubishi Corporation is a globally integrated company with ten business groups consisting of over 1,400 subsidiaries and affiliates that span across 90 countries. All of Mitsubishi’s seafood activities sit under the food industry group, with its most prominent subsidiaries being Norwegian aquaculture company Cermaq, British tuna processor Princes Group and Japanese seafood wholesaler Toyo Reizo.
Governance and management of stewardship practices
Mitsubishi’s subsidiary Cermaq has established detailed commitments to the principles of area-based management for fish farming. Area-based management requires farming companies and other stakeholders to coordinate effectively to ensure that, together, they assess and limit their impact on local ecosystems and communities. Cermaq indicates that all of its sites operate under area-based management agreements and, therefore, the company cooperates with other stakeholders when it is not the only operator.
Implementation of human and labour rights policies
Mitsubishi demonstrates a strong commitment to respecting human and labour rights through its code of conduct, slavery and human trafficking statement, and sustainable supply chain management policy. The group has established an internal human rights consultations desk through which any potential human rights concerns can be raised. Mitsubishi also claims to engage and empower workers through dialogues with its staff union in regard to labour conditions and related issues, stating that the results of these dialogues are taken into consideration when developing corporate policies. Furthermore, the group has developed initiatives to support women’s careers and has established targets to achieve by March 2021, such as increasing the number of women in management-level positions and organising training programmes and seminars aimed to encourage women to continue their careers.
Mitsubishi states that it pays special attention to respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and supports the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Furthermore, when examining new business investment proposals, the group claims to consider how its business operations might impact the rights of indigenous peoples. Subsidiary Cermaq has also established strong local community engagement and development programmes, stating that it works on projects that actively engage community members and focuses on promoting health, well-being, environmental conservation and protection, opportunities for youth, and indigenous rights and culture, among others.
Alignment and implementation of sustainability strategy
Regarding the implementation of a group-wide sustainability strategy, the relationship between Mitsubishi and its major seafood subsidiaries is unclear. The group itself discloses minimal information about its seafood stewardship responsibilities within its sustainability reporting, and subsidiaries seem to implement separate policies and programmes. Mitsubishi could improve transparency and reporting in regard to its overall sustainability strategy to increase accountability among stakeholders and ensure that strategies are implemented across the entire group. In doing so, it could learn from stronger performing subsidiaries, such as Cermaq and Princes Group.
While Mitsubishi’s subsidiaries demonstrate transparency around their sourcing and traceability of marine ingredients, there is no evidence of oversight at the parent level. Subsidiary Cermaq’s supplier code of conduct covers detailed sourcing and traceability requirements as well as includes a risk assessment protocol to ensure compliance and that targets are being met. Similarly, subsidiary Princes Group – an International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) founding member – recently underwent an external audit to ensure full compliance with the ISSF’s protocols. However, Mitsubishi’s lack of disclosure at the group level limits the extent to which its group portfolio of marine ingredients can be traced or certified.
Subsidiary Cermaq reports 212,562 escaped fish in 2017 and 33,691 in 2018. Escaped fish are problematic given that they can lead to interbreeding with wild populations or become invasive. While the company aims for no fish escapes and details several actions it is taking to limit the risk of escapes, the results indicate that it should increase its efforts.