Founded in 1977, Thai Union Group (Thai Union) is a seafood processor and manufacturer. The company initially focused on the production of canned tuna. In 1994, it went public and has since expanded its operations, becoming one of the largest global producers of processed tuna, shrimp and salmon. Thai Union does not own fishing vessels or aquaculture facilities but is active on four continents through its large subsidiary network and 12 production facilities. The company has a broad portfolio of shelf-stable, chilled and frozen food brands, including Chicken of the Sea, John West, Petit Navire and Mareblu.
Sustainable target fish stocks
Through its participation in several fishery improvement projects (FIPs), the company works on improving the management status of target species in its supply chain. By reporting through the Ocean Disclosure Project platform, Thai Union shows that it has assessed the management status of all sourced seafood in its portfolio. The company could further improve its performance in this area by demonstrating how it mitigates negative impact across all target fish stocks that require improvement.
Marine ingredients in aquaculture feed and use of alternative ingredients
Thai Union works on replacing marine ingredients in aquaculture feed with alternative proteins that are more sustainable. The company has adopted algae feed ingredients as an additional source of omega-3s in shrimp feed, and it works on shrimp feed produced from natural gas and fully traceable tuna by-products. The company is also involved in developing alternative feeds made from algae and fruit fly larvae.
Commitment to traceability
Thai Union has made a commitment to the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability (GDST). With this commitment, the company supports the implementation of robust traceability systems in the seafood industry.
Working and living conditions on board fishing vessels
Thai Union leads in this area by having a clear commitment to ensure decent working and living conditions on board fishing vessels. It also has a process in place to monitor compliance and discloses its monitoring results. The company further provides evidence of how improvements are being implemented by engaging with suppliers to improve their performance and compliance with the Vessel Code of Conduct.
Sustainable development strategy
Thai Union’s sustainable development strategy, SeaChange, includes a process for identifying and prioritising its most relevant sustainability topics, as well the outcome of this process. The strategy contains time-bound targets (greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, sustainable sourcing, water consumption, workers’ injuries), and reports against these targets. The company can however further improve its strategy, by developing specific time-bound targets related to social responsibility topics in the seafood industry.
Governance and accountability for sustainable development
Thai Union has established a Global Sustainability Committee. This is responsible for the implementation of the company’s sustainable development strategy and is chaired by a member of the board, the global director of sustainability. However, no public information was found on whether the company’s remuneration policy is linked to the achievement of sustainability goals.
Thai Union discloses the outcomes of its stakeholder engagement and how it integrates them into its sustainability strategy. The company also demonstrates that its engagement covers key sustainability topics across the seafood industry. However, there remains an opportunity for the company to clarify its process for identifying its stakeholders.
Commitment to sustainable fisheries and aquaculture
Thai Union’s targets and reporting on sustainable fishing and aquaculture are uneven, varying according to species, target market and product branding. As such, no company-wide time-bound targets for any part of its portfolio or markets were found. The company reports that it has achieved its target to source 75% of its branded tuna products from fisheries that are Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified or that are from fishery improvement projects (FIPs). Therefore, eventhough the company discloses metrics on its sustainable sourcing performance it has a clear opportunity to clarify and increase its ambitions on this topic.
Ecosystem impacts of fisheries
By reporting through the Ocean Disclosure Platform, Thai Union provides some information on impact risks related to by-catch, endangered species and habitats. To mitigate those impacts, Thai Union reports being involved in a several tuna FIPs that address ecosystem impacts. It could improve its performance by clearly reporting what proportion of the fisheries where risks have been identified are in FIPs, and which ones are not, and then describing its approach for improving all problematic source fisheries.
Ecosystem impacts of aquaculture
Thai Union’s Aquaculture Responsible Sourcing Guideline sets requirements for its aquaculture products that cover key issues in the aquaculture sector, including requirements to be certified according to standards approved by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative. The company also publishes the source and sustainability status of its aquaculture products through the Ocean Disclosure Platform. Thai Union owns four aquaculture farms that are certified by either Best Aquaculture Practices or the Aquaculture Stewardship Council. However, it could improve its performance by describing how it implements its supplier requirements across its entire portfolio and how it is implementing improvements where negative impacts are found. Furthermore, the company can start reporting information about outbreaks, medicine use, and disease management plans in its aquaculture operations.
Traceability system for seafood products and aquaculture feed ingredients
In addition to its commitment to the GDST, Thai Union describes the main elements of its current traceability system by providing an overview of the key data elements it collects and explaining how it collects the data across the supply chain. Also, Thai Union’s Can Tracker initiative allows customers to track the origin of its tuna products. While the company has an opportunity to further improve how it verifies the data in its current traceability system, the company states that it is already working on implementing a GDST compliant traceability system.
Risk-based approach to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing
Thai Union states that it assesses IUU fishing on a daily basis and has completed different IUU risk assessments with NGO partners. The company also states that it mitigates IUU fishing risks by sourcing tuna from vessels that are listed on ISSF’s Proactive Vessel Register, by conducting supplier and vessel audits and by having a commitment to certification and FIPs. Despite these activities, Thai Union still has room for improvement by detailing how it assesses IUU fishing risks and disclosing the outcome of those assessments.
Thai Union prohibits forced labour and requires that its suppliers adhere to the same standard by codifying it in a supplier code of conduct. It also requires its suppliers not to retain workers’ personal documents or restrict workers’ freedom of movement. Further, the company has a monitoring process in place for its operations and supply chain, but it is unclear whether it includes regular monitoring of the company’s full supply chain.
Health and safety of vulnerable groups
Thai Union recognises the specific health and safety risks to migrant workers, indicating that trainings and equipment must be covered by its suppliers. However, the company does not assess the health and safety risks to vulnerable groups and support activities that improve their health and safety.
Respecting customary and indigenous rights
In its human rights policy, Thai Union has made a commitment to respect the rights of customary resource users and the rights of indigenous people as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The company could improve its performance by describing how it implements this policy across its operations and supply chains.
Engagement with and support for local communities
Thai Union engages with local communities through activities such as planting mangroves, beach clean-ups, supporting the education of migrant workers and making donations to local hospitals. The company also tracks progress of the results and impacts of these activities. While Thai Union shares guidelines for conducting corporate social responsibility initiatives, the company can demonstrate how it regularly engages with local communities and describe how it prioritises its community engagement to ensure that its activities support communities that need it most.
Core social indicators
The core social indicators are part of the social responsibility measurement area. These indicators assess societal expectations of business conduct that companies should meet if they aspire to be part of a system transformation that leaves no one behind.
Thai Union commits to respecting human rights and the ILO core labour rights. The company demonstrates a human rights due diligence process, which includes the identification and assessment of human rights risks and impacts, and takes action to prevent, mitigate or remediate its salient human rights issues in its operations and supply chain. As part of this process, the company provides grievance mechanisms that are accessible to employees and external stakeholders such as communities.
Thai Union publicly commits to respecting the health and safety of workers and discloses the proportion of its total direct operations workforce by gender. Although committing to comply with local legislation regarding working hours in its labor code of conduct, the company does not state that a workweek may never exceed 60 hours including overtime in all of its locations. Similarly, Thai Union addresses collective bargaining in its policies but does not demonstrate how it works with suppliers to ensure their workers can access this right. While the company addresses living wages and support for gender equality and women’s empowerment fundamentals, no commitments on these issues were found.
Thai Union publicly commits to protecting personal data and has a privacy statement on the use of personal data. The company also publicly prohibits bribery and corruption and takes steps to identify and address bribery and corruption risks and incidents. Thai Union has a tax strategy, approved by the highest governance body, but does not clearly disclose the amount of corporate income tax paid on a country-by-country basis. The company lacks a publicly available policy setting out its approach to lobbying and political engagement.