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ASC releases first SDG report

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) has released a report that looks at how responsible aquaculture can contribute to the United Nation’s (UN’s) 17 Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and also develops a methodology to quantify how ASC verifiably contributes to these goals

The 17 SDGs and their 169 associated targets are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by all 193 United Nations Member States in 2015, with a target date of 2030. These are designed to encourage global, national, and local strategies that seek to achieve reduction of climate change and poverty, reduce inequality, improve education and health, and spur economic growth, while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.

Just under half (49%) of the SDG targets are specifically applicable to global aquaculture and therefore to ASC’s work, but synergy was found with all 17 SDGs through their programme and wider work. In particular, ASC addresses targets within SDGs on zero hunger, clean water and sanitation among others. “Improving aquaculture is at the core of the ASC’s mission, and we believe that it should play a major role in supplying food and social benefits for humanity, whille minimising negative impacts on the marine and terrestrial environment. How aquaculture performs generally against the SDGs and how this contribution to social, environmental and societal benefits demonstrably improves is essential. Understanding these positions related to the SDGs is therefore a priority and we are pleased to make public this important piece of work,” said ASC CEO Chris Ninnes.

The detailed report outlines, quantifies, and colour maps how each of the SDGs and targets are addressed by ASC and discusses areas that are aligned or have room for improvement. Upon assessing the relevance of ASC certification, some of their wider actions were looked at, which resulted from the impact of the ASC programme on local communities, or through their advocacy on the local, national, and global stage, and in the international governance landscape and the marketplace.

A gap analysis was also undertaken and ASC performance was compared with non-certified aquaculture, where claims could be self-declared, not backed up by transparent data or verified by third parties, potentially leading to greenwashing.

Overall, according to the UN, global progress towards delivering on the SDGs has slipped in the past years due to factors including the COVID-19 pandemic, and recent events on the world stage such as the Russia-Ukraine war. As a result, stringent monitoring and questioning of sustainability data quality is ever more important.

ASC believes that key stakeholders, governments, financial institutions, and investors will increasingly require that SDG performance is third-party audited and transparent, to provide high quality data assurance. Aquaculture certification requiring transparent data disclosures is also believed to provide them with a proxy to making their own credible and third party-verified SDG claims and help to de-risk supply chains.

“We consider the report to be a roadmap that details our journey towards environmentally sustainable and socially responsible aquaculture, and our aim is to produce it each year to track our own progress towards the 2030 goals and targets,” said Bertrand Charron, ASC’s director of Market Research and Insight.

“The SDGs highlight some of the greatest sustainability challenges we face, common to many industries and regions of the world. However, what’s currently missing is updated and quality SDG data. We believe that transparency and timely public disclosure of aquaculture operations’ performance will be key to ensuring that SDGs are being addressed and met by the industry.”

Having paved the way and set the standard, ASC hopes that corporations and organisations will begin mapping and objectively quantifying their own substantiated progress towards meeting the SDGs and help add knowledge to the field of aquaculture.