Tackling the global challenge of sustainable seafood

Seafood consumption has doubled over the last 40 years, but fish stocks have not kept pace. In a bid to help reverse the decline of living marine resources, Sodexo has made sustainable seafood a cornerstone of its sustainable sourcing approach.


For 1 billion people around the world, especially in developing countries, seafood is the primary source of protein. At the same time, the seafood industry directly and indirectly employs 250 million people. Sodexo’s efforts to maintain both are behind our commitment to sustainable seafood.

Over the last few decades however, the fragile balance of marine ecosystems has been disrupted. The world’s oceans have been severely overfished to the extent that once-common species are now endangered. Estimates suggest that 85% of species are either fully exploited or over-exploited, while the needs of a growing population for a balanced diet is only adding further strain. As fisheries collapse or are threatened, those who make their living from the sea also find their futures in doubt.

With the stakes so high in terms of social, economic and environmental impacts, Sodexo has made sustainable purchasing a central tenet of its fish and seafood sourcing process.

“Having 2 servings of fish a week is an important part of a healthy diet and we want people to continue to be able to do that.” Neil Barrett, Group Vice President Sustainable Development

Sodexo’s Sustainable Seafood Policy

As part of its responsibility roadmap – the “Better Tomorrow plan” – launched in 2009, Sodexo committed to ensuring it sources seafood comes from sustainable sources in the 80 countries where it operates by 2015.


To meet the commitment, Sodexo developed and launched its Sustainable Seafood Policy in 2011. The policy seeks to keep fish in the sea as well as seafood on its menus and catalogs, preserving jobs, satisfying customers, providing nutritional well-being and offering environmental benefits.

Actions, partnerships and certification

The sustainable seafood policy seeks to ensure that throughout Sodexo’s supply chain, the right processes are in place to guarantee ample fish stocks for the future. Actions include working with suppliers and external stakeholders to set standards, establishing universal methodologies that can be scaled across the entire enterprise, and measuring and auditing programs and compliance.

“We have a methodology that ensures what we are buying is sourced in the right way.” Neil Barrett, Group Vice President Sustainable Development

Expert partners play an integral role. Sodexo is the only food service provider to have signed a worldwide agreement with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)* on certification for wild-caught fish, which is now being rolled out, and in 2010 signed a technical agreement with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) that covers both aquaculture and wild-caught seafood and agricultural policies.

“Our partnership with the Sodexo Group goes beyond just sourcing from sustainable sources, it is also about assuring Sodexo customers that the fish they buy can be traced back to its source:  an MSC-certified, sustainable fishery. This is why a key part of our collaboration focuses on certifying the supply chain and Sodexo’s operations through the MSC chain of custody standard, a world-leading traceability standard backed up by DNA testing and random trace backs. To date, 5 countries have had their distribution and restaurant sites certified, with more on the way, underlining Sodexo’s deep commitment to sourcing certified, sustainable seafood.”

—  Nicolas Guichoux, Global Commercial Director, Marine Stewardship Council


* Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an independent non-profit organization, which offers a certification program for maintaining healthy fish stocks and reducing ecosystem impacts of fisheries for wild-caught fish.

Assuring high standards in aquaculture

Sodexo’s policy on sustainable seafood is especially notable for its deep level of detail. Although aquaculture – or fish-farming – has often been thought a solution to dwindling wild fish stocks, there are many considerations. These include social issues, animal welfare (e.g. overstocking of fish-rearing ponds), impacts on biodiversity (effluent levels and escapees), the use of antibiotics, and the origin and quantity of the fish feed used.

Working closely with its suppliers, independent experts and accreditation bodies, Sodexo goes to great lengths to verify the responsible sourcing of its farmed fish. By adopting standards set by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), the Global Aquaculture Alliance and GlobalGAP, Sodexo can guarantee the sustainable production of aquaculture products and that the necessary farming practices are in place to preserve the whole ecosystem.

Moving towards sustainable seafood

Sodexo is making steady progress towards its target of sourcing sustainable seafood in the countries where it operates by 2015. Here are the key milestones that have been achieved, and those ahead.

2010: Sodexo prepares an inventory of its internal programs and offers related to seafood.
It also defines a responsible seafood purchasing policy and communicates this to its internal and external stakeholders.
2011: All species of fish listed as endangered and/or threatened are withdrawn from Sodexo's menus and catalogs.
2012: The majority of fish purchased under international contracts by Sodexo is sourced only from responsible suppliers.
2015: The majority of seafood that Sodexo serves will be sustainably sourced.

Site visits and strict controls

Sodexo’s buyers not only look at the supplier’s types of practices, but also visit the farms in person, applying a strict methodology to ascertain that the seafood is being produced in the right way, from the hatcheries to the growing ponds and production lines.

Vertically integrated suppliers are favored for this reason as they offer greater oversight of the entire chain, resulting in better traceability. Buyers also look for producers to meet credible aquaculture certification and eco-labeling (such as ASC), and meet international benchmarks, routinely conducting audits to assess the supply, farm and factory.

Setting an example in supply chain sustainability

Sodexo’s approach to seafood today serves as a great example of how the company manages its supply chain in general. Thanks to groupwide initiatives such as the Group Supplier Code of Conduct, Sodexo is able to assure that the products and services it sources – from wherever in the world – conform to the laws in force and respect social, ethical and environmental values.

Achieving Sodexo's seafood sustainability objectives

Sodexo has committed to sourcing sustainable seafood in all the countries where we operate by 2015, which will be achieved by:

  1. Maintaining a wide variety of species in its menus and in its catalogs
  2. Removing species at risk from its menus, and implementing control measures (geographical area, fishing methods, minimum size, etc.) for others
  3. Increasing the share of fish and seafood from responsible farms and fisheries using standards and eco-labels such as the Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council.
  4. Setting up sustainable supply for aquaculture - Assessing the importer and producer, and conducting audits to check the supply, farm and processing and packing facility.
  5. Developing Sodexo's technical expertise in the field, including working with NGOs (such as WWF), and continuously improving Sodexo's sustainable seafood strategy.

Sustainable seafood around the world

In every country where it operates, Sodexo is deploying the 5 pillars of its strategy to promote sustainable seafood. See what each country has enacted to date.
Please note: red-listed refers to species defined as at risk by the Group, while orange-listed denotes species that can be used but which have associated concerns and control measures