Seafood & Timber
We’re pressing for radical changes that’ll transform the timber and seafood sectors in the UK.
Tackling illegal timber
We made further progress this year in our campaign to prevent any illegal timber products being traded in the EU. It would make a huge difference if all timber products were included within the scope of the EU Timber Regulation – currently just 41% of the value of timber imports are subject to it. So it was good news this year when, thanks in part to our campaign, the UK government recommended this proportion should increase to 72%. It’s also very encouraging that one of the options the EU is considering in its review of the regulation is that 100% of timber products should be included. We’re pushing for exactly this, and it’s a move that has the backing of several EU member states. Getting support from businesses has been key to the success of our campaign, so we’re delighted to report that this year, the number of companies that have signed our pledge to procure wood from 100% sustainable sources has risen to 58.
Increasing responsible seafood
Unsustainable fishing practices, climate change and pollution threaten seafood production and livelihoods all over the world. Our work to address these problems includes our long-running Seafood Charter, which is a global framework for businesses that want to ensure seafood is sourced responsibly and that illegal seafood is eliminated from the market. This year we launched a video about the Seafood Charter, which you can watch above, so a wider audience can learn about the work we’re doing with partners. Progress so far has been hugely encouraging: since we launched our partnership in 2009, M&S has increased its sourcing from certified fisheries from 19% to 76%.
Improving supply chains
In 2016, another of our partners – Thai Union Europe (John West) – committed to a new project to improve a major tuna fishery in the Indian Ocean. At WWF, we’re determined that stocks of tuna and other seafood species we eat in the UK are better managed across the world. One way we’re doing this is through our involvement with such ‘improvement projects’. Thai Union Europe and other key stakeholders aim to ensure actions are taken in the Indian Ocean fishery to promote healthy fish stocks, reduce negative impacts on ecosystems and boost effective management. We’re now developing an action plan to help achieve the MSC standard in this fishery. We’re also helping fisheries in the Philippines, Madagascar and Orkney towards achieving MSC and Aquaculture Stewardship Council standards.
Palm oil is in around half of all packaged products we buy in supermarkets, but growing it irresponsibly is devastating rainforests and wildlife – particularly in south-east Asia. Palm oil production is expected to double in the next four years, so it’s likely to put even greater pressure on vulnerable habitats of iconic species such as orang-utans. We’re promoting sustainable palm oil, and this year we produced our fourth assessment of how well retailers, manufacturers and other companies are progressing towards sourcing it. We analysed 137 companies, and were heartened to find that many well-known British companies are leading the way – they’ve shown that in less than a decade it’s been possible to move to sustainable palm oil supply chains. But other major brands have failed to keep their promises or are still doing nothing to help reduce deforestation and other negative impacts.
Furniture failing forests
Importing furniture to the UK is a multi-billion pound business, so we think it makes business sense for UK furniture retailers to ensure the timber in their products is produced sustainably. But a report we produced this year found that two thirds of UK furniture retailers could be failing the world’s forests, as they don’t have robust policies for procuring products made from sustainable timber. In our report – Are you sitting comfortably? – we looked at how well 74 of the most prominent retailers seek to establish the origins of the furniture they sell in the UK. Of these, 50 had no published policy or statement about selecting credibly-sourced timber products. But we did discover more positive news: 16 of the retailers are making good progress. We’re calling on the furniture sector to question the nature of their products, and to support sustainable forest management.
Tuna at stake
The Indian Ocean is an important source of the tuna we eat in the UK. But an unsustainable amount of yellowfin tuna is caught there, and this stock is now classified as ‘overfished’. We want to reverse this decline, so this year we helped put pressure on the intergovernmental organisation that’s responsible for managing tuna and other species there – the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC). We coordinated a letter that was signed by 38 major seafood brands, UK supermarkets and other key seafood buyers, making clear they recognise the importance of managing tuna sustainably – for their businesses and for the health of the marine environment. They called on the IOTC to adopt measures immediately that will ensure these tuna stocks are harvested sustainably. And they called for scientific advice to be followed that will reduce catches of yellowfin tuna by 20%. A cut of 10% was agreed at the meeting – the first time a tuna fisheries commission has adopted such measures before a stock has collapsed.