A Day in the Life of: Standards and Certification Coordinator, Haruko Horii
May 9, 2016
My life’s journey brought me to the Netherlands six years ago. Having attained a social science degree from Hosei University in Japan, and after learning Portuguese at Macau University in China and Coimbra University in Portugal, I wanted a new academic challenge in a different country. So I enrolled in the International Development Studies master programme at Wageningen University.
Although my academic interests were rooted in social issues, during the programme I was introduced to the topic of environmental policy. During my studies, I developed a strong interest in issues around food, including the complex mixture of environmental and social aspects that come into play at different points in the supply chain.
I wrote my master’s thesis on traceability in alternative food chains based on a field study of shrimp farms I conducted in Indonesia. One of my findings was that quality assurance mechanisms such as certifications are created for affluent western consumers. Thus, there are great knowledge, financial and cultural gaps between resource-poor farmers and markets in developed counties. In short, Eurocentric quality assurance mechanisms do not seem to ensure benefits to the local farmers.
My field studies increased my interests in certification programmes. I had a lot of questions, and I simply wanted to learn more about them so that I could confirm my findings and potentially help farmers find ways to benefit from these programmes. During my studies I learned about the ASC.
The ASC programme was especially interesting to me, since it covers not only environmental, but also social aspects in its standards. I was eager to learn more, so I applied for an internship position. After my internship, I stayed on as a Standards and Certification Coordinator.
Daily life at ASC
My daily work at ASC is varied and every day brings something new. Having worked in the Japanese government and the Japanese office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, I know big structured organizations have limits on how much an individual can contribute. On the other hand, ASC is a very flexible organization and an individual can make a real difference. Your opinion is heard and recognized. That is why I find it exciting to work at ASC.
My work involves managing relationships with ASC stakeholders, updating the database of farms in our program, making data and reports for internal/external use, translations and even writing a blog (!).
Recently, to my joy, I got more tasks related to my home country as we welcomed the first ASC certified Japanese farm to the programme in March. I also recently went on a research trip to Miyagi Province to assist a colleague. It was such a great opportunity for me to learn about Japanese farmers and to create connections with them. From this trip I learnt a lot about the expectation of stakeholders in Japan. I also come to better understand the challenges, as well as the great potential, in the region. Knowing the culture and language, Iwould like to help the organization understand the market and bring our sustainability values to Japan.Beyond learning about the market, this trip was very special to me. I was born in Miyagi province and I worked in Fukushima before coming to the Netherlands. Just one year after I left, the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami hit Fukushima and Miyagi. I went back to Fukushima once after the devastating events to visit my friends, but I wished I could have done more.
I think the first ASC certified farm in Japan is one of the great examples of their great effort to reconstruct and improve the community. Every time I hear stories about Japanese people supporting each other during tough times, I feel so proud to be Japanese. I really admire the resilience of Japanese people and I am happy to be part of this great achievement for Japanese aquaculture. I hope the ASC certification will bring about further benefits and hope for the future.
A few thoughts about the ASC
With less than 15 people on staff, it is surprising to look at the influence we have in the market. We make an impact because everyone is very passionate about the work and believes in what they do. Due to our shared dedication, we work together closely and have great synergy within the organization. I think that is one of the key elements that makes our team strong and successful.
Working in such a small, culturally diverse organization is very interesting and fun. I know my colleagues very well and they celebrated my birthday and my graduation with me. Even more surprisingly, together with my boyfriend they organized a secret “business” trip where I received a surprise marriage proposal!! I feel so lucky that I have a job that I enjoy and that I get to work with people I like.