Greenpeace’s oceans campaign is experiencing a little déjà vu when it comes to a certain grocery store and their seafood policy.
In the summer of 2009, after a Greenpeace report ranking Trader Joe’s as having one of the worst seafood policies, thousands of customers spoke up with their concerns. The national grocery chain was selling unsustainable seafood items to an unsuspecting public, slurping up profits made from destructive activities like overfishing, bottom trawling, and fishing depleted stocks. Customers and activists across the United States sent the company messages demanding that Trader Joe’s cease their behavior and adopt a sustainable and environmentally-conscious seafood program.
Trader Joe’s executives first ignored the outcry, but as the trickle of irate letters and pleading phone calls grew to a steady stream — and finally to a raging torrent — the company decided to act. In early 2010, after enduring nearly nine months of active campaigning from Greenpeace and hearing from thousands of its shoppers, Trader Joe’s made a public pledge to its customers, which stated the following:
“All of our seafood purchases will shift to sustainable sources by December 31, 2012. This applies to all formats of seafood we offer: frozen, fresh, canned, etc.”
Yes, Trader Joe’s promised us that their stores would sell nothing but sustainable seafood by the end of 2012. Yet here we are in February 2013, and Trader Joe’s still hasn’t said a word about whether or not it has fulfilled its pledge.
Greenpeace has sent numerous inquiries to the company over the last few months asking about the status of Trader Joe’s seafood, but the company has not responded. Greenpeace auditors and activists that visit Trader Joe’s locations are still finding unsustainable products on the shelves. Are they merely the last inventories of discontinued products? Or is Trader Joe’s continuing to profit off ocean destruction despite promising its customers that it would do the right thing nearly three years ago?
What’s the story, Trader Joe’s? Was it all a lie? For a company whose mantra is “we just listen to our customers,” it seems disingenuous to make such promises and then simply ignore them.
We’ve waited long enough. Trader Joe’s customers deserve an answer. Has Trader Joe’s in fact become a leader of seafood sustainability, as they promised Greenpeace and their own customers, or is our old nemesis Traitor Joe pulling the strings again?
Without commitments to sustainable seafood policies from grocery retailers, our oceans cannot survive. Other retailers including Whole Foods and Safeway have made such commitments. It’s time for Trader Joe’s to do the same.