Quality Standards and the Multi-Stakeholder Process

Our Seafood Quality Standards Coordinator explains how our stakeholders, from team members to growers to the public, have a voice in the process of developing new standards.

At Whole Foods Market®, we’ve got a wide range of stakeholders. These are the people who have an interest or an investment in what we do or sell. Most directly, we’ve got our customers, team members, suppliers and investors.

Indirectly, our stakeholders also include members of the public who are watching and commenting (sometimes publically) on what we do, such as environmental and consumer groups. As Whole Foods Market continually works to be the leader in responsible sourcing of food and other products, our stakeholders challenge us to aim high.

And this is a good thing!

Simultaneously, we must consider all of our stakeholders’ points of view and balance these perspectives so that at the end of the day we have practical standards that the most motivated and innovative suppliers can meet and we have high-quality products to offer our customers.

So, what is a multi-stakeholder process, anyway? Essentially, it’s a forum for bringing different perspectives to the table. Let’s take a real life example. Right now we’re working on developing a new set of Seafood Quality Standards — our standards for farmed molluscs (a.k.a shellfish like clams, mussels and oysters).

The process is well on its way and we aim to finish this spring.

To create the standards, we studied the published science, visited farms from coast to coast, met with farmers and talked with many scientists to make sure we understood the issues. We also sought input from environmentalists. These discussions occurred during meetings, on the phone and over email.

The process can occur in many ways! We're also holding meetings with all of our supplier partners to review our draft standards point-by-point and get their feedback.

The first farmed mollusc supplier meeting took place January 10th at our North Atlantic regional office and attendance was great. We hosted Whole Foods Market seafood buyers, representatives from our Quality Standards Team and Global Food Safety teams, and our consultant, Oceanographer Jon Grant from Dalhousie University in Canada.

Almost twenty east coast growers participated in the meeting, hailing from Virginia, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, Canada.

Together with the growers, we reviewed the standards and had engaging discussions on a range of topics including what makes a production system aquaculture (vs. wild capture), disease prevention, standards for monitoring and preventing impacts to sediments under farms, harvesting, predator control and traceability.

We received productive feedback and, fortunately, it looks like we’re on the right track with our standards. Running a multi-stakeholder process is a lot of work, but it’s worth it in the end because when our stakeholders are involved in the process of developing standards, they’re invested in the outcome and can share in the success.

Look for more details on the farmed mollusc standards this spring!

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