Océans en santé. Communautés en santé

Shareholder Activism X Sustainable Seafood

April 30, 2024

In a global first, a shareholder activism campaign targeting farmed salmon was launched this month in Australia. It’s a groundbreaking move that has the potential to shake up the sustainable seafood realm, worldwide.

The Save the Skate campaign is aimed at Australia’s two largest supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths, calling on them to stop buying farmed salmon from Macquarie Harbour. These farms are considered a “catastrophic” threat to the endangered Maugean Skate.

Individual investors, unless they’re billionaires, typically lack influence over companies and their boards. But working together, small shareholders can have a big influence over the social and environmental practices of companies. SIX (Sustainable Investment Exchange) will rally more than 100 shareholders to drive forward the proposals, corporate engagement, and necessary interventions to achieve a positive outcome for the skate.

Shareholder activism is a strategy of strength in numbers – and it works.

SIX lists some examples where shareholder activism has achieved big results:
“In the last year Apple has agreed to report on union rights and Visa has promised to provide more details about its gender and racial pay disparities. A few years ago activist fund manager Engine no.1 installed 3 new board directors at Exxon despite holding only 0.02% of the company shares. Tulipshare was able to get a 44% vote for a resolution supporting factory worker rights at Amazon, even though its supporting shareholders held just $42,000 of shares in the USD$1.6 Trillion company.”

The number of environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) shareholder activism campaigns has been on the rise in recent years. Most have centered around climate action and human rights. Some activism has begun around ocean plastic commitments, and past wins include Starbucks and McDonalds phasing out plastic straws.

But shareholder activism in the sustainable seafood space is new – and long overdue.

With the launch of the Save the Skate shareholder campaign, we are hopeful that a wave of similar actions will begin worldwide.

The Save the Skate campaign is the first shareholder activism campaign to hold major companies to account for unsustainable seafood procurement. It is also likely the first shareholder activism centered around a species extinction emergency. Eco-certifications are also implicated by the campaign, as Macquarie Harbour salmon is marketed as certified “responsibly farmed”, misleading shoppers.

Living Oceans has been leading the call for the BAP and GLOBALG.A.P. certifications to drop their endorsement of Macquarie Harbour farmed salmon. Living Oceans is also one of the collaborators of the SIX campaign.