The Business Case for Sustainable Seafood

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What’s Good for the Environment Is Good for Business

As the largest traded food commodity in the world, seafood provides income and sustenance for billions of people across the globe. While trade in fish and fish products is estimated at about US$150 billion, the ocean’s annual “gross marine product” (GMP) –equivalent to a country’s annual gross domestic product –is at least US$2.5 trillion, making the ocean the world’s 7th largest economy. The sustainability of the seafood industry depends upon the sustainability of this already over-taxed resource.

Increasing demand for seafood puts immense pressure on natural resources, potentially undermining their continued viability if they are not carefully managed. Fisheries that are not managed sustainably not only threaten the marine environment but also the economic and social well-being of those who rely on it. Aquaculture industries that don’t respect natural limits risk being short term and financially unstable. As supply and demand trends come ever closer together and competition for resources increases, companies will need to pay closer and closer attention to how and from where they source seafood to ensure that environmental and social risks are duly identified, managed or mitigated. An increasingly erratic supply of seafood creates operational and financial risks for companies from product shortages to pricing fluctuations and erosion of profit margins. Opaque supply chains that hide slave labor and illegally harvested fish also present legal and reputational risks to companies.

The good news is that what’s good for the environment is also good for business. Stable fisheries mean stable supply and pricing. Traceable products enable companies to keep illegal activities out of their supply chains. The risks are many, but so are the tools that companies can utilize to mitigate them.

The business case for sustainability stems from the intrinsic need to responsibly manage our natural resources so we can continue to use them for years to come.

© James Morgan/WWF


WWF has identified that there are serious risks to business profitability that stem from a ‘business as usual’ approach to producing, distributing and selling seafood. WWF conducted research to better understand these risks and their potential impacts on businesses, and identified the following tools and methods to support companies in their transition to more sustainable business models:
  • Explore ways to streamline inventory and cut overall food costs to more easily and cost-effectively incorporate sustainable products

  • Participate in pre-competitive and multi-stakeholder platforms around seafood sustainability

  • Implement long-term contracts to enable more sustainable sourcing

  • Plan and invest to manage and maintain certification

  • Reduce food waste and loss along the supply chain to add value

Tools for Sustainable Business

© Antonio Busiello / WWF-US

Natural Resource Management

Sustainable management of natural resources is not only good for the environment but essential to business longevity, stemming from the need to manage our resources in a way that allows us to benefit from and share them for years to come.

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Shrimp fishing fleet in Mexico

© Gustavo Ybarra / WWF

Pre-competitive Engagement

Pre-competitive collaboration of businesses can help ensure the long-term availability of the resources from which they make their profit, addressing a shared problem for the collective interest of all parties that rely on that resource.

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© Antonio Busiello / WWF-US

Long-term Contracts

Successful long-term contracts can support increasingly stronger, more productive and longer lasting relationships between buyers and suppliers, offering a strategy that not only promotes a sustainable environment, but is good business.

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Learn More

Risk and Opportunity in the Seafood Sector: The business case for sustainability

This summary report by WWF-US draws on a number of studies undertaken by WWF and our partners to understand the economic and financial landscape in which the seafood sector operates and outlines the interventions needed to achieve more sustainable outcomes for companies, financiers, and seafood producing nations.


© Antonio Busiello | WWF-US