PARIS, 19th April 2023 — The Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative (SSCI) has issued a response to Human Rights at Sea’s (HRAS) 2023 Review of Fisheries and Aquaculture Certification, Standards and Ratings, in which the SSCI was benchmarked alongside 37 certification standards. While the SSCI supports independent efforts to increase transparency around and drive harmonization among sustainability standards, the SSCI believes it has been “mistakenly” included in the report given its status as a benchmark operated by an industry association, and not a certification itself. The SSCI has therefore written the below letter to HRAS requesting an amendment to the report and future evaluations while offering to explore potential areas for collaboration:
To David Hammond, CEO, Human Rights at Sea,
With an aim to build trust in sustainability standards worldwide, The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) launched the Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative (SSCI) in 2017 to support consumer goods companies with their supply chain due diligence. The CGF is a global, parity-based industry network that is driven by its members to encourage the global adoption of practices and standards that serve the consumer goods industry worldwide.
Today, the SSCI is led by the CEOs of 22 global brands and retailers who seek to offer guidance to companies on how to navigate the complex and constantly evolving responsible sourcing landscape. Given the important role that third-party standards play in monitoring supply chain sustainability, the SSCI offers practical guidance for organisations on the industry’s minimum expectations for how these standards should operate and what topics they should cover. Through its Benchmark, the SSCI recognises third-party auditing, monitoring, and certification standards to provide clarity on which ones are credible and trustworthy.
The SSCI Benchmark currently benchmarks social compliance standards operating in three sectors, including fisheries and land-based aquaculture. As an independent NGO advancing human rights protections in the maritime industry, the mission of Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) is very aligned with the SSCI’s work in these sectors. Both the SSCI, and the CGF more globally, have been concerned with grave human rights challenges associated with the maritime and seafood sectors for many years. Most recently, the CGF CEO Board of Directors issued a letter to the UN Secretary General urging for greater protection of seafarers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, while the SSCI launched its benchmark scopes for At-Sea Operations and Primary Production, the latter of which includes land-based aquaculture production.
The SSCI welcomes HRAS’s first-ever Review of Fisheries and Aquaculture Certification, Standards and Ratings which offers an independent assessment of how certifications integrate human and labour rights protections within certifications, standards, and ratings. The SSCI also welcomes the report’s final call to action for greater inclusion of social protections among standards.
While we appreciate efforts to increase transparency around gaps in human rights coverage among sustainability standards to drive continuous improvement for the benefit of Workers worldwide, we believe the SSCI has been mistakenly included in and evaluated by this report. As an industry association, the SSCI is not a sustainability standard and does not audit or certify organisations’ supply chains. Rather, in offering an independent benchmark for standards, the SSCI helps ‘verify the verifiers’ and ensure the schemes and programmes that businesses trust to monitor their supply chains operate responsibly and cover all key sustainability topics. We believe we are therefore ineligible to be benchmarked in this report alongside actual standards, and we request the SSCI be removed from this report and future evaluations.
We remain however committed to our shared goal with HRAS to improve human rights protections for Workers at sea. The 2023 review offers key insights into how standards can improve the integration of human rights and labour issues into their methodologies. As a starting point, for standards in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, the SSCI’s Social Benchmark Criteria for our At-Sea Operations and Primary Production benchmarking scopes provide our industry’s minimum requirements for the topics that should be covered in the respective sectors. Through our Benchmark, standards demonstrate alignment with this Criteria and therefore with our industry’s expectations. We therefore encourage all standards in these sectors to not only review the Criteria and take steps to align their requirements with it, but also apply for SSCI Recognition to join a group of industry-recognised, credible and trustworthy schemes.
We also seek to learn from HRAS’s assessment to continuously improve our Criteria and the expectations we set for standards. We believe that the complementarities between HRAS’ approach and the SSCI could lead to potential collaborations in the near future, and we look forward to exploring these. Together, we can help advance sustainability in our industry by improving the standards that we trust and rely on.
Director of Sustainability
The Consumer Goods Forum