By Chris Ninnes, ASC’s CEO
At a high level I believe all those involved in farming and selling seafood want to do so with lower environmental and social impacts. We have a shared vision. But when there are costs associated with reducing impacts it can be hard to understand or capture the value needed to bring about the required change. However, to achieve a shared vision and have an impact at the scale that we aim for, I firmly believe it is essential that we work collaboratively with our commercial partners, governments, NGOs and other certification schemes.
A hardwired multi-stakeholder approach
By design, ASC is a multi-stakeholder concept. This started with the development of the standards through the dialogue process coordinated by WWF. And continues through the assessment process where stakeholder input is actively sought. It is also captured within the ASC’s organisational and governance make up, where we seek broad representation. Soon, we will have a Stakeholder Council, which will give us an organisational platform where the views of stakeholders can be both tabled and solicited formally.
When you think about the range of stakeholders that we need to engage with when we promote more responsible aquaculture, it is both diverse and varied. In some regions governments are not in the forefront of engagement, and we work largely with commercial entities and NGOs: but, in other countries, governments are far more involved in sectoral planning and coordination of commercial activity. And, of course, the ASC has to be responsive to this changing landscape. We can’t operate in a vacuum and we have to respect the cultural values of the countries where we want to have an impact.
Making sure the programme is meaningful
This is a challenge that we have only partially taken up at this stage in the development of the ASC. And arguably this is a challenge that we all need to work on collaboratively to deliver our shared vision. We are a young organisation within a young sector but, as the certification movement gains momentum, I think how we evolve and innovate to make our programme more meaningful and relevant for stakeholders globally is a challenge we must take on. It’s essential, if we truly want to see certification (and the ASC) established as catalysts for the change that we want to happen globally.
To do that the programme has to be relevant and there has to be ownership of the programme with those diverse stakeholders. They have to feel that this is not foisted upon them but something that they welcome because they can see the value of it. We will truly be delivering on our shared vision when the value of our collective work is embraced not only in the markets of the developed world but also in those of middle income and emerging market countries.