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Australian Barramundi with zucchini flowers and courgette

Social responsibility in aquaculture

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Visitas: 28

By: The Fishmonger*

As a retailer the Fishmonger used to be in awe of organizations like Mc Donalds and other giant fast-food outlets. Of course, the food was not to the Fishmongers taste e.g. the seafood offerings were minimal and were manufactured to eliminate great seafood flavors but there was much to like about their systems, their staff training, their advertising, and their connection to being part of the community.

As a retailer the Fishmonger used to be in awe of organizations like Mc Donalds and other giant fast-food outlets. Of course, the food was not to the Fishmongers taste e.g. the seafood offerings were minimal and were manufactured to eliminate great seafood flavors but there was much to like about their systems, their staff training, their advertising, and their connection to being part of the community.

The Fishmonger is aware that some towns fought against a Mc Donalds franchise being established in their area but conversely there are towns who see them as part of the community fabric where you can take kids to parties and have a fun time with relatively cheap entertainment in the play areas and with the food, albeit young children probably waste much of it.

Also impressive was their concept to create Ronald McDonald’s House (RMH), a non-profit organization, that provides temporary housing and support to families of seriously ill children who are receiving medical treatment in nearby hospitals. RMH was founded in 1974 by Philadelphia Eagles football player Fred Hill, whose daughter was diagnosed with leukemia.

Norwegian Atlantic Salmon with green salad

Norwegian Atlantic Salmon with green salad

Today, there are nearly 400 Ronald McDonald’s Houses around the world, providing comfort and care to thousands of families each year. Kudos to them for this great social initiative.

It has been reported that McDonalds and its franchisees employ approximately 1.9 million employees. McDonald’s has more than 35,000 locations in over 100 countries and that about 80 percent of locations are franchised.

“One of the problems with mega businesses is when something goes wrong then it has a big impact on the overall operations and, being who they are, they are often highlighted in the media when that occurs.”

For example, earlier this year it has been reported that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) fined three Mc Donald’s franchisees after an investigation determined that hundreds of children – including two 10-year-olds – were working there in violation of federal labor law.

Officials found that Louisville Kentucky-based McDonald’s franchisee operator had hired two 10 year old’s to work at one of its locations -unpaid- and as late as 2 a.m., with one of the children even permitted to operate a deep fryer, a task for which workers must be at least 16 years old. Note that under Kentucky’s child labor laws, minors younger than 14 years old are not allowed to work.

Only a few days ago it has been reported in Australia that thousands of McDonald’s workers have joined a class action against the fast-food giant accusing them of not allowing staff to have their breaks. This follows on from the Federal Court finding that a former employee was not provided with paid 10-minute rest breaks when working shifts four hours or longer.

The court heard that the franchisee misrepresented the nature of the breaks, and the former employee was subsequently paid the value of her lost breaks. The class action revolves around many staff worked in hot conditions without access to a toilet or some thing to drink when there is clarity in Australia, that McDonald’s workers are entitled to a paid 10-minute break for shifts between four and nine hours, and two paid 10-minute breaks for shifts longer than nine hours.

“Additionally, workers were reporting that they were told that they had to arrive for work 15 minutes early to prepare and stay 30 minutes after their shift to meet cleaning and other procedures and, yet not get paid for those times.”

These examples highlight that no one is immune to errors in social responsibility, and it does not end there. This is a minefield for any organization and no matter where you are and in aquaculture and its value chain it is going to be an issue that everyone needs to consider as you move forward with your business.

You can either wait for compliance to hit you or you/we can build a culture within your organization and the industry that represents important values, considers ‘society’ as a shareholder, harnesses a team approach and encourages all to move forward in a socially responsible fashion.

The Fishmonger recently learned that the International Labor Organization (ILO), the only tripartite U.N. agency, which has been operating since 1919 bringing together governments, employers, and workers of 187 Member States, to set labor standards, develop policies and devise programs promoting decent work for all women and men, have been talking about aspects of social responsibility in aquaculture for some time.

They have included aquaculture into their agri-food sector and after about ten years of discussion with their “experts on decent work” have recently made available their “Policy guidelines for the promotion of decent work in the agrifood sector” – you can download that from https://www.ilo.org/sector/Resources/codes-of-practice-and-guidelines/WCMS_873895/lang–en/index.htm

This would seem to have the support of the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco, and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), a global union federation of trade unions with members in a variety of industries, many of which relate to food processing. It is also recognized as an important instrument by governments when planning policies in many of the sectors.

“These instruments are being considered through FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) so will become entwined in what the industry does into the future.”

The ILO point out that Governments have the duty to adopt, implement and effectively enforce national laws and regulations and ensure that fundamental principles and rights at work and ratified international labor Conventions are applied to all workers in the aquaculture sector, considering their obligations under other international labor standards.

Japanese Fishburgers

Japanese Fishburgers

ILO believe that Governments should strengthen labor administration and labor inspection systems to ensure full compliance including through adequate financial resources, duly qualified inspectors, proper equipment and training, and robust recruitment procedures.

Additionally, ILO expect all enterprises should respect human and labor rights in their supply chains consistent with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy.

“The Fishmonger believes that we all would agree that aquaculture, should be regarded as a subsector of agriculture (sadly still stuck in Fishing in some countries), and is an important source of income and livelihoods, especially for many rural communities.”

The ILO acknowledge that aquaculture provides direct employment to more than 20 million people, with many millions more people employed through the supply chain. The sector’s exponential growth in recent decades has significantly contributed to alleviating poverty in a number of developing countries, enabling millions of the rural poor to escape from social and economic exclusion.

Enterprise development is important for aquaculture as it will contribute to job creation, empowerment of women and youth and livelihood diversification in the rural economy. The sector contributes significantly to feeding the world’s growing population, while ensuring that no one is left behind (#leavingnoonebehind).

“The ILO highlight that harnessing aquacultures potential will require concerted efforts to achieve full, productive, and freely chosen employment and decent work for all in aquaculture as part of resilient food systems. Sustainable develop ment and growth of aquaculture can make an important contribution to reducing distress out-migration from rural areas.”

For the future new technological solutions offer promising prospects to address many of the traditional and emerging issues facing the aquaculture sector, while improving productivity and environmental outcomes. The Fishmonger believes they could also help create new sustainable enterprises and decent employment opportunities including by replacing laborious, repetitive, and dangerous tasks with automated processes.

Along this journey the industry will need effective policy to address potential negative impacts such as job losses, skills mismatches, skills polarization, wage inequality, and barriers faced by small-scale producers in adopting new technologies and practices.

“The digital divide hinders the small-scale producers from taking advantage of new technologies and practices. An enabling environment for digital transformation should be supported with right Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) infrastructure and digital literacy.”

The Fishmonger has often spoken about a lack of data about the industry and how there is a need to build a culture from top to bottom so to see those points highlighted in the ILO report was gratifying as maybe it just needs stronger voices to get these issues on the table.

There can be no question that recognizing the universal right to education, investments in life-long learning and diversified skills development to promote decent work opportunities will enable the workforce and the employers to better respond to the changing requirements of the sector, including those related to technological advancements and sustainable natural resource use.

Additionally, continually improving environmental sustainability of aquaculture, including through improved infrastructure, water and waste management and the creation of green jobs, will be key to the sector’s long-term economic sustainability, to food security and nutrition for the future.

If you were looking to get ahead of the pack then it would pay to get a good awareness of the environmental, social, governance and health (ESGH) risks and opportunities in the aquaculture sector then you should engage at the AQUA FARM 2024 Conference/Expo – see www.aquacultureconference.com.au. The Fishmonger will there so I hope to see you!

References and sources consulted by the author on the elaboration of this article are available under previous request to our editorial staff.

WAS
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Cargill Empyreal75
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