Op-ed: Walmart’s Outsized Catch, Civil Eats

//Op-ed: Walmart’s Outsized Catch, Civil Eats

Op-ed: Walmart’s Outsized Catch, Civil Eats

November 21, 2023.

This thorough op-ed dives into Walmart’s seafood sourcing policy, the class action lawsuit taken against the retailer for misleading sustainability claims, in particular the MSC label on their seafood, and the history of Walmart and how it has contributed to the rise of MSC, potentially reinforcing these gaps in the MSC program. One example is that fisheries who are not yet meeting the sustainability requirements are being certified and advertised in the marketplace as sustainable.

It touches on the concerning fishing practices happening in MSC certified fisheries, notably the killing of endangered species and concerning bycatch, lax definitions of overfishing and overfished, and that harmful fishing practices like bottom trawling and longlining are able to be certified. These are all issues that we have raised in the past, and that have the potential to undermine the intent of the MSC program, and consumer trust. 

The op-ed also dives into the financials of the MSC’s rapid growth, and the cost for fisheries to become certified. The program is often too expensive for small scale fisheries to get certified, meaning they lose market leverage even if they are more sustainable, despite small scale fisheries being heavily promoted on the MSC promotional materials.

An impactful excerpt from this op-ed:

In some ways, we have come full circle, back to traditional environmental strategies like government regulations that use lawsuits to enforce them. And yet Walmart’s corporate governance strategies have allowed it to rely on MSC’s debatable sustainability criteria in such a way that, combined with charitable giving from the Walton Family Foundation and other philanthropic partners, Walmart can achieve its sustainability goals without fundamentally changing its business model.

This reformulated sustainability doesn’t solve the problems associated with producing low-cost disposable goods and shipping them across the world, or relying on the continued, predictable harvest of wild animals with naturally fluctuating population dynamics. It’s just a definition of sustainability compatible with late-stage capitalism, unlikely to be compatible with complex ecosystems, unpredictable population fluctuations, and a changing climate.

This contradiction at the heart of a sustainable Walmart is elided by the company’s rhetoric. By declaring that MSC certification means a fishery is sustainable, Walmart is shifting the burden of proof onto anyone who says their products are not sustainable, or who has a different, perhaps more rigorous, definition of sustainability. Walmart is relying on both certification itself and whatever ecological results it has as positive environmental outcomes—as sustainable. This is an important aspect of corporate greenwashing: moving the goalposts.”

2024-01-11T16:29:18+00:00November 21st, 2023|Categories: Allgemein|