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Hilton Teams Up with WWF to Responsibly Source Seafood

MCLEAN, VA—It seems extreme and even unthinkable: Global sources of seafood could disappear. Valuable fish stocks and other marine life are being threatened by overfishing.

“Ninety percent of the planet’s fisheries are fished at or beyond their capacity, which means, at best, they’re incapable of yielding more seafood or, at worst, they’re in danger of collapsing irrevocably,” said Nicole Condon, manager, seafood corporate partnerships, World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) publication outlines the analysis of assessed commercial fish stocks. The share of fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels decreased from 90% in 1974 to 68.6% in 2013—31.4% of fish stocks were estimated as fished at a biologically unsustainable level and, therefore, overfished, according to the report.

“Oceans are a shared resource and, more often than not, the seafood that we catch is not confined to one specific location. This means that multiple countries are fishing for the same resource. Without proper, coordinated management both within and across borders, we see negative impacts such as illegal fishing, overfishing, social injustices, ecosystem disruptions and environmental degradation,” said Condon. “Adding to that, the FAO estimates that 90% of assessed commercial fish stocks are overfished or fully fished, which means that we can’t fish for much more than we already do. When done responsibly, aquaculture, or farmed seafood, can help to meet an increasing demand.”

As hotel brands are examining and implementing sustainable practices across their portfolios worldwide, there’s a real environmental imperative to take action with regard to sourcing seafood. On World Oceans Day on June 8, Hilton reaffirmed its commitment to conservation of the environment by revealing multi-year, sustainable seafood goals in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund.

“In 2015, Hilton conducted a supply chain risk analysis to inform our sourcing strategy moving forward. We looked at a range of factors, including the economic, social and environmental impact of our supply chain, and identified seafood as a high-priority category,” said Maxime Verstraete, VP of sustainability, Hilton. “We then created a cross-functional advisory group to oversee development of a comprehensive responsible sourcing strategy and guide global implementation. This then informed the review of the parameters and goals of our global seafood commitment.”

When it comes to sustainable food sourcing, each product category—beef, chicken, vegetables or seafood—presents different challenges, noted Verstraete, because the supply chains can be quite different.

“While there could be some overlaps—for instance, engaging internal stakeholders within the food & beverage and procurement teams—analysis and due diligence still needs to be applied to each supply chain to develop a grounded understanding and relevant actions. With seafood, some of the challenges we’re addressing include gaps in available data, and the awareness and capacity of our team members and suppliers to source seafood responsibly,” said Verstraete. “For the individuals and communities whose livelihoods depend on the fishing industry, ensuring seafood is produced sustainably is key to their long-term economic viability. Finally, our guests are also increasingly interested in traceability—where their food is coming from and how it’s produced—for reasons ranging from ethics to health and safety. All of those factors present a real opportunity for companies like Hilton to lead and take action.”

Verstraete expressed that it was vital to put data at the heart of the brand’s sustainable seafood strategy. Hilton started by conducting a baseline analysis of its supply chain data.

“This was quite the task, if you consider the size and complexity of our global supply chain,” he said. “Our findings were critical to shaping our seafood strategy. We were able to determine that salmon and shrimp are our top sourced species by volume globally, and that almost 7% of our known seafood volume has been reported to come from MSC-certified fisheries and ASC-certified farms. There is, however, a need to improve our procurement tracking to ensure traceability to sustainable and responsible sources, so that remains a key area of focus for us.”

WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment. In addition to protecting life on land, it’s also focused on the oceans, home to more than two million species and covering more than 70% of the Earth’s surface. By working with multinational companies like Hilton, WWF is striving to make a global impact.

“WWF works with industry leaders to transition companies’ existing seafood supply chains toward greater sustainability and responsibility. Change does not happen overnight, and we do not expect companies to switch immediately over to 100% sustainable product,” said Condon.  “By taking the time to understand their current supply chain and working with fisheries and farms to strengthen practices, Hilton can protect ocean biodiversity and the environment. Ultimately, raising the bar for the industry and increasing the amount of available sustainable and responsible seafood.”

To date, Hilton has collected and analyzed available seafood purchasing data across more than 350 hotels, 500 suppliers and across 57 species groups, which has enabled the brand to establish a baseline for their efforts. It has also developed training resources on responsible sourcing and sustainable seafood, and rolled them out to team members around the globe to empower them in activating the brand’s goals.

Other points of progress include the following, according to the company:

  • Hilton was the first global hotel company to achieve MSC group certification for 60 owned, leased and managed hotels in Europe.
  • Hilton Singapore was the first hotel in Asia to receive Chain of Custody certification for MSC- and ASC-certified seafood.
  • Hilton worked with Sysco, a food service distributor, on a national program in the Americas offering Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP)-certified shrimp, and the brand is work together to transition to ASC-certified product offerings by 2022.

Over the course of designing and implementing this commitment, we recognize that the seafood supply chain is a complex one, and that driving sustainable long-term improvement requires a balance of patience and a sense of urgency,” Verstraete said. “Patience is critical because doing this right takes time, and much of the work also falls outside of our direct control. At the same time, we need to also identify high impact opportunities and act on them with urgency, in order to drive momentum, and make meaningful progress against our goals.”

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