Sustainable Consumption: Juxtaposition or Opportunity?

by mritch01 on November 10, 2017 - 10:08pm

 

With 85% of global fishing grounds either fished up to or beyond their limits, a move has been made by many to seek out sustainable seafood consumption. Marina Bay Sands, a large hotel complex in Singapore that procures millions of kilograms of seafood a day has also followed suit and partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to improve their habits. A recent article by The Online Citizen describes how Marina Bay Sands and WWF are reacting to the issue of seafood stock depletion. The main goals of this newfound partnership include responsible seafood consumption, improved aquaculture projects, and increased green events. In terms of procurement, Marina Bay Sands aims to have 50% of their total seafood volume sourced responsibly by 2020 and in addition, 100% of all top 10 priority seafood species sourced responsibly within that same time line. Their sustainable seafood is sourced from both the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). Both are WWF supported initiatives that provide sustainable seafood to consumers which can be traced back to their source. Additionally, Marina Bay Sands is also working with WWF to improve their menus and has already removed several dishes that included species on WWF’s AVOID list. As a major consumer of seafood products, Marina Bay Sands is clearly taking active steps forward to be more sustainable in their consumption. 

While this is seen as a positive response to depleted fish stocks, there are some critiques to be made and analyzed about this move to a neoliberal governance initiative. One critique and point of consideration is the fact that it commodifies seafood and therefore does not discourage consumption. It does not focus on consuming less but consuming certain products, in this case MSC and ASC products. In my opinion, even if all seafood consumed today is considered sustainable, at some point in the future due to exploitation and continual consumption, things will become unsustainable once again. This model thrives and survives on continual consumption and therefore, it takes away from the solutions that, for example, promote less consumption which is the most sustainable option. 

In addition, market based solutions are not widely available to everyone and therefore can cause inconsistencies. As a large operation with several facilities, this move to sustainability seems relatively accessible for Marina Bay Sands. That being said, due to financial barriers, not everybody can make moves so easily and efficiently to more sustainable products. The reasoning for this being that certified products tend to be more expensive. Additionally, these products are often more expensive but have the same taste as unsustainable products and therefore, if you know your consumer is not interested in sustainability then incentive for engaging in these initiatives is most likely low. Price constraints can therefore discourage those that do have access. It is great to see those that are financially able, such as Marina Bay Sands, taking part but it is important to note the accessibility issues that others face. 

This is not to take away from the positive work that many, including Marina Bay Sands and WWF, are doing. This is to suggest that market based solutions are not by any means foolproof and maybe not even the most sustainable option. However, as with negatives, there are several positives aspects. Such as, empowering consumers, setting precedence and standards for others to follow suit (much like Marina Bay Sands has done), and raising awareness. In the wake of seafood stock depletion, alternatives must be considered and analyzed in order to move forward. Marina Bay Sands and WWF’s partnership is one example of a solution to this issue. 

 

Resources: 

The Online Citizen. (2017). Marina Bay Sands and WWF to embark on sustainability partnership. Retrieved from https://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2017/10/28/marina-bay-sands-and-wwf-to-embark-on-sustainability-partnership/

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