24 April 2024 Seafood industry actors gather in Barcelona to encourage engagement on better human rights due diligence processes, and participate in the launch of the SEA Alliance Commitment to Progress initiative. Over 50 representatives from seafood businesses, NGOs and the scientific community assembled at a panel session hosted by the Seafood Ethics Action (SEA) Alliance at the recent Seafood Expo in Barcelona. The ‘Bridging the Gap’ event focussed on industry-wide collaboration and aligned approaches to addressing pressing human rights issues in global seafood supply chains. It was also the opportunity to launch the SEA Alliance Commitment to Progress initiative. The panel brought together a wide range of seafood supply chain stakeholders – from policymakers to academics, and those with previous experience working at sea. It featured: Thea Lee, the Deputy Undersecretary for International Labor Affairs at the U.S. Department of Labor; Chris Williams from the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) Fisheries Section; Noel Selorm Adabblah, a former fisherman from Ghana; Lara Funk, a PhD Candidate in Seafood and Social Sustainability at Heriot-Watt University; David Hammond, Founder of policy and advocacy NGO, Human Rights at Sea International; Huw Thomas, a Consultant and founder of Three Pillars Seafood, which specialises in responsible sourcing and supply chain advice. The session was moderated by the SEA Alliance’s Chair and the Group Social Sustainability and Ethics Senior Manager at Hilton Food, Julia Black. Each panellist shared their unique perspective on interacting with human rights in the seafood industry, not only helping to build a complete and vivid picture of the myriad of challenges faced by many, but also to highlight opportunities for collaboration in terms of instilling responsible practices across the board. Georgia Worrall, Head of the SEA Alliance, reflected on the panel session:
With such a diverse audience the Seafood Expo Global is a great opportunity to form and build game-changing partnerships between stakeholders. The involvement and keen interest of the private sector in these dialogues highlight a genuinely collective commitment to enhancing human rights due diligence through various partnerships and collaborations. However, conversation is just one way in which we can enhance our understanding of human rights issues and share approaches on improving due diligence practices. We know that the industry is also calling for more foundational, practical guidance on due diligence processes. At this event in 2023 we began work on a charter of commitments. This has now evolved into a framework of commitment pathways for businesses to monitor progress against. We are now a year on, so this event was the opportunity for us to introduce details of the framework which underpins our Commitment to Progress initiative.
The Commitment to Progress initiative incorporates four key areas: Transparency, Rightsholder Engagement, Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD) and Purchasing Practices, each with a cycle of actions for businesses to monitor progress against. It encompasses commitments related to policy formation, risk assessment and mitigations strategies, data collection and monitoring, establishment of accountability targets, transparent communication of progress, and remediation expectations. Georgia continued:
This is just the start. The SEA Alliance anticipates providing support to our members in advancing this framework and facilitating collective efforts to achieve progress in specific areas. We will be working with partners on the creation and provision of supplementary guidance on actionable steps for businesses. As we continue to develop this guidance it is important that it remains inclusive of a broad range of businesses. We want to be in a place where this is considered the norm across the industry, and not a box-ticking exercise. Crucially we know that verification of progress against this framework is key to its impact. Working with industry experts, as well as organisations who work closely with workers and fishers, will be a key part of this process. We are currently working on developing an effective verification framework to monitor member’s progress. We want to pilot this framework, so we are asking for a number of SEA Alliance member businesses to trial this framework within their current businesses processes, starting with one of our key retail members.

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