This article is part of our Rising Stars Portfolios series.
When you envision corporate sustainability initiatives that even Greenpeace could love, Safeway (NYSE: SWY ) probably doesn't spring to mind as a frontrunner. But believe it or not, the conventional grocer recently won first place on the environmental organization's annual ranking of supermarkets' seafood sustainability initiatives.
"Carting Away the Oceans," Greenpeace's annual seafood sustainability report, ranked both Target (NYSE: TGT ) and Wegman's at No. 2. Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFMI ) , which recently launched detailed seafood sustainability initiatives, came in at No. 4.
Safeway discontinued the sale of "red-listed" or unsustainably caught fish, such as orange roughy. It's also involved in fishery restocking initiatives and advocating for the Ross Sea to be designated as a marine reserve.
Big, well-known retailers Costco (Nasdaq: COST ) , Trader Joe's, and Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) lagged with 11th, 12th, and 13th place rankings, respectively. As far as the major laggards go, Greenpeace called out Winn-Dixie (Nasdaq: WINN ) and Meijer as "disinterested and irresponsible companies," and SUPERVALU (NYSE: SVU ) and Publix for being unwilling to discuss their plans or stop selling red-listed species.
Greenpeace has often made major waves about seafood sustainability. It's previously launched successful campaigns against Trader Joe's ("Traitor Joe's") and Costco ("Oh, No, Costco") to press for improvement of their seafood buying practices.
Costco recently revealed that it will no longer sell a dozen types of fish deemed unsustainably farmed by the Marine Stewardship Council. Greenpeace lauded the retailer for its impressive progress since the "Oh, No, Costco" campaign in its recent report.
My Rising Stars portfolio is designed with socially responsible factors in mind, and sustainable business practices are a major plus. Good companies should realize that ruining marine ecosystems could destroy a major sales channel over the long run. If we deplete seafood populations, then a major part of the $31 billion seafood industry will sleep with the poor fishes.
When even supposedly old-school, "conventional" companies such as Safeway compete with one another to do the right thing, we're all better off. In its press release regarding the Greenpeace ranking, Safeway said it's "making corporate social responsibility part of the fabric of the company and a strategy to deliver a competitive advantage," and outlined initiatives including recycling, renewable energy initiatives, and becoming a founding member of The Sustainability Consortium.
Three cheers for Safeway for bringing sustainability to an unexpected place. Here's hoping for a future where investors will find socially responsible businesses the rule in their portfolios, rather than the exception.
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