CEO, Aquaculture Stewardship Council
Targets can be ignored, or feel arbitrary, but they are also vital when it comes to corralling multiple countries, organisations and people together to tackle issues that seem difficult to deal with individually.
In 2015, UN member states adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – social and environmental targets to bring the world together to work towards a better and more sustainable future for all.
The SDGs are helping tackle these global challenges: they comprise 169 targets that cover a wide range of issues, including poverty, inequality and climate change.
Interconnectivity of SDGs
At the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) we wanted to know how many SDGs our work in responsible fish farming was contributing towards. SDG 14 is Life Below Water, so is of course very relevant to our work. This work is ongoing and will result in a full benchmarking report, but what we have found so far is that we are contributing towards a surprisingly high number of other SDGs. In fact, every single SDG includes at least two targets within the scope of our work, with 93 relevant targets altogether.
Why so many? The other SDGs are not just about food, after all – in fact, only one is explicitly about food (Zero Hunger), with two others closely related (Good Health and Wellbeing; Responsible Consumption and Production).
Promoting responsible aquaculture
How we produce our food is interconnected with so many other issues, meaning responsible aquaculture can contribute to SDGs that on the face of it have nothing to do with seafood. For example, SDGs like Gender Equality (the seafood sector employs a high proportion of women, directly and indirectly), or Decent Work and Economic Growth (aquaculture is a vital part of the economy of many developing countries).
How we produce our food is interconnected with so many other issues, meaning responsible aquaculture can contribute to SDGs that on the face of it have nothing to do with seafood.
This is encouraging as it shows that even something as seemingly small as what food we choose to buy and eat can have far-reaching impacts.
It should also sound a note of caution: because while responsible aquaculture can contribute to the SDGs, irresponsible aquaculture can harm them. If farms don’t have strong anti-discrimination policies in place, gender equality will not improve. Life below water cannot thrive if irresponsible farms are degrading oceans and rivers.
The SDGs are targets for the future, but ASC certification requires farms to make improvements right now. Only farms that demonstrate they meet hundreds of requirements for responsible production can use the ASC logo. Choosing their seafood helps to accelerate the reaching of these critical targets. Aligning with the SDGs shows that the little choices we make can have wide-ranging impacts – it’s up to us whether they’re positive or negative.