WASHINGTON — To further advance sustainability, many throughout the pet food and treat space have committed to reducing production waste, utilizing more eco-friendly packaging, formulating with alternative proteins and other eco-friendly actions. The latest move in the name of sustainability now includes addressing fishing operations, something Mars, Cargill, Skretting, Costco, Walmart and Sodexo are all hoping to make more sustainable through a new initiative from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Finance Earth (FE).

WWF and FE, an impact investment advisory and fund manager, will establish a new program, called the Fisheries Improvement Fund (FIF), to “catalyze” the improvement of fisheries throughout the world. The program will seek to reverse the decline of fisheries and help scale their improvement, and, in turn, create healthier ecosystems, fishing communities and a more sustainable blue economy.

“Through this blue finance mechanism, sustainable financing will be ensured for projects that are critical to scaling fishery reform over the coming decade for people and nature, through an efficient, equitable and cost-effective model,” said Johan Bergenas, senior vice president of oceans at WWF US. “Our vision is that this fund, under the management of Finance Earth, revolutionizes fisheries finance, driving game-changing environmental and social impact.”

WWF and FE hope the project will generate more than $100 million in investments toward fishery improvement by 2023. The groups designed FIF to be scalable across all fisheries, supported by companies, like Mars, that are working to transition more sustainable fisheries into their supply chains.

“At Finance Earth, we believe in advancing the improvement of global fisheries by providing innovative solutions,” James Mansfield, co-founder and managing director at Finance Earth. “We are thrilled to have worked with WWF and prominent feed and buyer companies on this breakthrough initiative and be launching this new model to provide finance for fisheries’ improvements. At scale, this approach has the capacity to attract a range of investors from the public and private sector to support fishery improvement worldwide. This is a unique opportunity for all of us to protect our oceans and invest in a sustainable blue economy.”

Large-scale seafood buyers Mars, Costco, Sodexo and Walmart are supporting the launch of FIF.

“At Mars, we are continually working to drive positive change for people, pets and our planet,” said Paul Gardner, chief procurement officer, Pet Nutrition at Mars. “As part of this, we are always looking for more sustainable ways to source our raw materials to help protect vulnerable ecosystems and drive responsible practices. Mars and WWF have a long-standing partnership of more than a decade focused on driving improvements in seafood supply chains. Through this innovative blue finance mechanism, Mars is supporting the development of new models that can provide a consistent source of funding for global fisheries improvements, with a clear aim to positively impact our oceans.

“Mars has committed $1 million in funding for fishery improvement projects over five years, supporting the scaling up of credible projects beyond the pilot to create real change on the water,” he added. “We believe this effort is critical to helping protect the long-term viability of our planet’s natural resources and the many people dependent on healthy fisheries for their livelihoods.”

Mars’ support of the FIF is just part of its overall sustainability goals. The company’s SHEBA cat food brand currently operates the Sheba Hope Reef project, a coral reef restoration project. The company is also committed to sustainable sourcing, as its Pet Nutrition division recently reached its goal of sustainably sourcing all fish used in its formulas within Europe.

Helping WWF and FE are Cargill and Skretting, who provided their expertise and insights into the development of FIF and will participate in the piloting of the project.

“At Cargill, we are excited to engage with WWF and Finance Earth on this innovative blue finance mechanism to scale fisheries improvement,” said Helene Ziv-Douki, president of Aqua Nutrition business at Cargill. “We see a clear and compelling business case for companies to invest in the long-term viability of their marine ingredients used for aquaculture products, especially as aquaculture production continues to grow exponentially. The industry needs to work to support sourcing from more sustainable fisheries through active engagement. Improvement in fisheries will reduce supply chain volatility and mitigate supply chain risk while enhancing business value across the sector.”

The companies will commit to a volume-based feed, enabling FIF to pay back upfront costs for improvement projects, as well as creating long-term revenue. According to WWF and FE, the fund will change how long-term sustainability projects are funded, as they become seen as a cost of doing business and become more embedded into product costs.  

“At Skretting, we have a strong focus on reducing the environmental and social impacts of our feed ingredients,” said Jorge Diaz Salinas, sustainability manager at Skretting. “Sustainability is non-negotiable for doing business and is essential for the industry’s future growth. Given the scale of the sustainability challenges facing the world, we think it is impossible to achieve progress in isolation. This collaborative initiative is a perfect example of how we can come together as an industry to help further drive global fishery reform in an equitable and scalable financial model.”

WWF and FE have already secured investments for the pilot project. The project will test the concept in the real world, using highly concessionary capital to create a scalable blueprint of the FIF. FE is currently seeking proposals from both industrial and small-scale fisheries throughout the globe that are interested in seeking funding through the FIF, as well as support from relevant industry stakeholders.

Read more about sustainability efforts in the pet food and treat industry.