Finance fishing boats

On the supply side: Walmart’s Great Value tuna helps support the Marshall Islands

When shoppers search for canned tuna in Walmart stores, they may not know that the retailer has worked to ensure its Great Value tuna bears the Marine Stewardship Council seal of being sustainably sourced. The brand also provides economic opportunities in the Marshall Islands.

About a year ago, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) began working with Walmart on sustainability issues to radically change the tuna supply chain.

Pacific Island Tuna was formed in October 2021 as a partnership between TNC and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Pacific Island Tuna now supplies Great Value canned tuna to Walmart. The Pacific Island Tuna Company is one of 10 local solutions where Walmart is committed to increasing supply chain visibility and sustainable fresh food practices.

“This model was somewhat unheard of,” said Matt Arnold, global impact and finance manager for TNC. “We have failed for years to convince the historic tuna supply chain in the South Pacific to change its practices to become more sustainable. So we started our own business.

He said more than half of the tuna consumed in the world comes from the Western Pacific and it is a very difficult supply chain because the conditions on the fishing boats are not great.

“There’s the slaughter of other animals like turtles and dolphins that get caught in the nets by mistake. We couldn’t see how to change that, so we started our own business. Pacific Island Tuna works with ships to fishing more sustainably. Fishing methods are vetted and verified to be sustainable, and today we are part of Great Value Tuna’s supply chain,” Arnold said at Walmart’s recent Sustainability Summit at Bentonville.

Arnold said TNC and the Marshall Islands partnership could not have happened without Walmart and a common goal to change the tuna supply chain.

Aman Singh, sustainability communications strategist at Walmart, told the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal that the Great Value tuna supplied by Pacific Island Tuna comes from tuna caught near the Marshall Islands. Tuna loins are shipped from Majuro in the Marshall Islands to a cannery in the Philippines and then sent to the United States.

“As part of the Pacific Island Tuna Collaboration, at least 40% of the company’s net revenue distributions will directly support community-based conservation and climate resilience projects, including the development and management of marine protected areas and the restoration coral reefs. The remaining 60% of profits will be donated to Pacific Island governments,” Singh said.

Mark Zimring, TNC’s Global Tuna Program Manager, said the partnership between TNC and the island government facilitated by Walmart is a win for all. This gives Walmart a sustainable supply chain for tuna, which is good for the environment and gives back to the Marshall Islands by providing jobs and opportunities that did not otherwise exist.

“For decades, these fishermen had never met the retailer who bought their catch from the packer. Pacific Island Tuna put anglers in direct contact with Walmart and packers so they could build a level of trust around a common goal,” Zimring said.

He said that for too long island nations had done nothing more than collect rents from fishing boats that worked offshore in the Western Pacific. The new model sets aside 60% of profits that accrue to the island nation. Zimring said the older model offered little upstream visibility for the angler. He said there is now a level of trust and a common goal of sustainability, with everyone getting paid.

“Over the past year, we are now seeing this model disrupt the supply chain, and other players are trying to replicate the model that is good for the planet, people and all partners,” he said. added.

Zimring said there were no guarantees when Pacific Island Tuna was created a year ago. Still, there is talk of expanding and scaling the business in the coming months. Walmart confirmed it was working closely with PIT and actively looking for ways to expand the work.

“This project is an example of how we continue our commitment to regeneration with projects that create economic, social and environmental value for our customers, suppliers and communities while providing our customers with access to affordable protein. said Singh.

Zimring said the company has struggled with supply chain and inflationary pricing, but that’s true of all businesses, especially startups.

“We still have work to do on tuna, but we see a real opportunity to adapt learning to other seafood proteins,” he said. “Just as important as scaling up the PIT, we would like to see the rest of the market adopt the sustainable procedures in their supply chain that also provide support to resource nations.”

Zimring said Pacific Island Tuna was born because enough people were tired of the status quo and sought to make the impossible inevitable. The partners took risks to advance a great idea, and the rest of the tuna world is taking notice.

“Pacific Island Tuna shows the world that sustainability and profitability are not mutually exclusive, even in an industry that has been challenged by both,” said Gene Muller, PIT’s Managing Director. “Through close collaboration between resource owners and retailers, we can shape a different and more resilient future for the tuna industry and the communities that depend on it.”

David Kabua, President of the Marshall Islands, said the partnership with the TNC is a transformative business venture that provides economic and conservation development for the small island nation and better livelihoods for people who choose to stay in their homeland. .

PIT is not the only supplier of Walmart Great Value tuna, but a significant part of the company is interested in growing production. By 2025, Walmart said all canned white and light tuna sold in its U.S. stores, Sam’s Club and Walmart Canada must come from suppliers that source from fisheries that have third-party certified sustainable practices or are working on certification.

As of last year, 70% of canned tuna sold in U.S. Walmart stores — branded and private label — had the certification. The figure is now closer to 90%, Walmart said at its recent sustainability summit.

Editor’s note: The Supply side section of Talk Business & Politics focuses on the businesses, organizations, issues and individuals engaged in providing products and services to retailers. The Supply Side is managed by Talk Business & Politics and sponsored by Propak Logistics.