Building a sustainable ocean economy

Moving Together Toward a Sustainable Ocean Economy

This article first appeared on a LinkedIn blog by Marika McCauley Sine, Global Vice President of Sustainability at Mars, Inc. 

I joined the “The fishing sector and retailers – committing to responsible supply chains” panel at The Economist Group’s 8th Annual World Ocean Summit. Virtual summits like these give us a chance as a global community and as sustainability leaders to reflect on how we prepare for a future of more than 10 billion people, many of whom will have pets, and how we do so in a way that is sustainable. Our family has just welcomed an adorable new puppy, Kona, and seeing the joy he brings reminds me how important it is to work toward a more sustainable future for pets and pet owners.

Mars Petcare is involved in sustainable sourcing of fish because we make healthy, nutritious and high-quality cat food, and seafood plays a key role in it. As a family-owned, purpose-driven company we’re focused on doing business in ways that not only meet the needs of pets but also builds a better, more sustainable world.

Ten years ago we sat down with WWF to discuss how we could help address the growing problem of non-sustainable fisheries. We learned that many fisheries around the world were on the verge of collapse and that several fish species were critically endangered and threatened by extinction. With the WWF as our partners, we decided to set ourselves a goal to acquire 100% of our fish from sustainable sources. 

The formation of strong partnerships has been a crucial part of our learning journey, and we’ve been working together with our suppliers to transform our supply. As we keep progressing toward our commitment, we’re taking into account some of the key lessons we’ve learned along the way.

Our first lesson is that the procurement function is the heart of this effort. We’ve engaged every single one of our fish buyers around the world in this journey, sharing with them the sustainability challenges in the fishing industry and sharing guidance and support to shift our sourcing in the right direction. In response, they’ve embraced both the challenge and the opportunity to do good as they seek sustainable sources of fish. This has been a major transformation for us, and they are leading the way in this effort every single day.

Second, we’ve seen how powerful it can be to leverage our relationships with others in the food industry to try to drive change together. As we’ve served on the Board of the Seafood Taskforce and co-led the human rights initiative at the Consumer Goods Forum, we’ve tackled common issues like improved traceability and responsible recruitment standards, and we’ve supported technological innovations that provide better connectivity for vessels at sea. 

And lastly, we’ve learned how critical engagement with governments and global policymakers is to driving change at scale. The challenges to overcome in this sector are beyond the ability of any one company or any industry to successfully address alone, and governments have the ability to shift standards and regulations in ways that protect people and the environment on a massive scale. We’ve seen the Royal Thai Government take strong action to strengthen law enforcement and governments around the world strengthening maritime laws – these efforts make a real difference and make sustainable sourcing even more feasible.

So, as we progress toward our goals, I’ll be looking out for ways to accelerate, innovate and partner to drive even better results at a faster pace. We all know that the environmental and social challenges facing oceans are urgent, and they require us all to do even better at listening, learning and acting, together. I’m optimistic about the possibility of building a sustainable future for all – and that we’ll come together as we never have before to make it a reality.