Chicken of the Sea, John West, Petit Navire, King Oscar and Mareblu
Thai Union Group was founded in 1977 and focused initially on the production of canned tuna. In 1994, the group went public and has since expanded its operations, becoming one of the largest global producers of processed tuna, shrimp and salmon. The group does not own fishing vessels or aquaculture facilities but is active on four continents through its large subsidiary network, has 12 production facilities and employs over 47,000 people globally.
Governance and management of stewardship practices
Thai Union Group leads the benchmark in governance and management of stewardship practices primarily due to its detailed sustainability strategy “SeaChange”. The strategy includes programmes centred around safe and legal labour, responsible sourcing, responsible operations, and people and communities. The group has established numerous targets and programmes across these areas which cover both environmental and social metrics. Moreover, it publicly reports, on an annual basis or more frequently, on its progress towards each of the targets set to be achieved by 2020.
Thai Union Group outlines how it identified and approached key external and internal stakeholders to develop its first integrated sustainability strategy in 2016. The group used an array of mechanisms, including online consultations, trainings, site visits and events, to gather stakeholders’ inputs. It repeated the process again in 2019 in preparation for its new 2025 targets and focus areas. Thai Union Group notes the key issues and concerns raised by each stakeholder group and explicitly links its own targets to each point and outlines how they are addressed within the group’s operations.
To contribute to reducing plastic waste in the oceans, Thai Union Group is encouraging consumers to use the appropriate end-of-life options for its products. Moreover, it has committed to ensuring that 100 percent of its branded packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. In its sustainability strategy, the group shares a five-year innovation roadmap which outlines a clear pathway to attain its 2025 target, specifying projects such as developing a paper lid solution and using shrimp shells as an effective biodegradable plastic replacement, as well as detailing the necessary mechanisms to achieve these.
Thai Union Group stands out for its numerous partnerships and active role in multi-stakeholder activities, such as fishery improvement projects (FIP) for tuna, to limit its impact on ecosystems in waters neighbouring Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mauritius, Senegal and the Seychelles. Since 2014, Thai Union Europe has been working with WWF to ensure that all seafood Thai Union Group sells in Europe is sourced sustainably. Since 2018, Thai Union Group has been working with Greenpeace to reduce the impact of its tuna supply chain on ecosystems. Together, they have developed a number of measures and KPIs, for instance, aimed at moving away from harmful fishing practices, improving traceability and regulating transshipment at sea.
Thai Union Group has developed strong activities and programmes aimed at supporting the local communities in areas where it operates, leading the benchmark on this measurement area. Through the Pracharat Project, the group assists local businesses and provides employment opportunities in coordination with the Thai government. It also backs various community-based initiatives together with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources and Department of Fisheries.
Implementation of human and labour rights policies
Thai Union Group has committed to respect and protect human and labour rights, as seen from the code of conduct it established for its internal operations and suppliers. It has a due diligence framework through which it assesses risk and remediates any adverse human and labour right impacts. However, a 2018 audit report on commercial fishing vessels supplying to Thai Union Group, conducted in line with “SeaChange”, indicated that the vessels lack policies and procedures that cover child labour, forced labour, recruitment fees, human trafficking, and poor standards of health and safety equipment, among others. This was despite the introduction of a fishing vessel improvement project (VIP) and vessel code of conduct (VCOC) in 2017 which intended to provide clear guidance to vessels on how to address and tackle these issues.
Thai Union Group has taken an important step towards transparent sourcing by disclosing detailed information about its European seafood sourcing over 2017. Its “Sourcing Transparency” report contains details about the species it has sourced, including capture method, fishing area and management status of its wild-caught fish and shellfish. The group however does not provide an overview of its sustainability efforts for its entire species portfolio. The group could set an industry standard for full transparency on sourcing by publicly disclosing similar details about its entire fisheries and aquaculture portfolio.