Expanded Sustainable Seafood Programming Has a Far-Reaching Impact
By Andrea Pinabell Vice President Sustainability, Global Citizenship, Starwood Hotels & Resorts | May 22, 2016
Every day, each of us make what seem like routine decisions that actually have a profound impact on our planet. Among these decisions are our choices in food and beverages – specifically seafood – which have much farther reaching implications than one might imagine. The kinds of seafood we select affect the health and diversification of rivers and oceans as well as the economic well-being of fishermen and their families, especially in remote resort areas, creating a ripple effect on our human health, river, reef and ocean ecosystems, our communities, our local economies and our business.
The importance of seafood is profound when you take into consideration that about 85% of the world's ocean fisheries are categorized as fully exploited, over-exploited, or depleted meanwhile seafood constitutes 16.7% of human animal-protein consumption worldwide. In many developing island and coastal nations it represents 50% of animal protein consumed. Additionally, 10%-12% of the world's population depends on the seafood industry for their livelihood.
Due to seafood's wide impact, Starwood has focused on seafood for several years as part of its Sustainable Food & Beverage program. We began our seafood work with a ban of whale and sea turtle products in 2012 that was expanded to include a ban of shark fin in 2014. Since it was important to look at this issue holistically, we have since incorporated corporate guidelines for both wild and farmed seafood, on-property tools for seafood procurement, and partnerships with organizations to improve local fisheries to create long-term solutions. Our holistic approach also ensures that our decisions surrounding sustainable seafood do not have unintended consequences for the local economy and communities in which we operate.
We started our work from the global level, outlining our strategy and determining how best to execute given that we operate in some 100 countries. To do so, it was important for us to bring in an external expert with science-based research and a global network to guide our work due to the complex nature of sustainable food and beverage decisions. After an extensive search, we partnered with the New England Aquarium, a renowned global expert, to help us create our Sustainable Seafood Position Statement. Using what is called the Common Vision for Sustainable Seafood, a globally recognized system for companies to use, we developed our Position Statement in a manner that allows properties to make decisions based on their unique situations and locations while also staying true to our overarching goals and philosophy. Our Position Statement also commits us to enhancing our bans of shark fin, whale & sea turtle by working to eliminate the procurement of species designated as endangered due to the risk of extinction and to providing transparency on our endeavors along with annual reporting updates.
The statement and seafood bans fit strategically into our larger Sustainable Food & Beverage Policy, initially published in 2012 and updated in 2015. Starwood's "Eat Local, Think Global " program is a collection of principles that guides all sustainable food and beverage sourcing, production, consumption and disposal within and across Starwood properties worldwide. These principles include our goal to source more local foods and beverages at Starwood hotels, encourage properties to buy from farmers who practice certified and sustainable farming, and support Fair Trade practices.