How ASC Promotes Human Rights in Aquaculture
December 10, 2022
Every year, on the 10th of December, the world celebrates Human Rights Day. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, proclaims the inalienable rights that every human being is entitled to, no matter who they are or where they are. Around the world, whether at a global or at a local level, human rights impact our lives on a daily basis, and it is imperative that we continue to engage in discussion consistently.
ASC and Human Rights
At ASC, we are working to address human rights issues in aquaculture supply chains. The current ASC standards include many requirements on common human rights issues in food supply chains, such as abolition of child labour, elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour, promoting freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, elimination of any kind of discrimination based on gender, age, religion, ethnicity, and ability, protecting workers’ health and safety, and respect for local communities. These requirements are in line with ILO conventions and other international efforts.
By applying to become ASC certified, and maintaining this certification over the years, aquaculture farms (and also feed mills and ingredient suppliers from January 2023) show their commitment to meeting the social (and other) requirements set out in the ASC Standards. Auditors not only check whether, for example, buildings and equipment are safe to use, and if workers have protective gear and do not work excessive hours, but perhaps more importantly, they verify that farms have systems in place to proactively ensure that any human rights risk is detected, remediated, and prevented in the future. Certified feed mills are also required to conduct Due Diligence on their supply chains to adhere to these principles as well.
Based on feedback we receive from stakeholders and on discussions in the international networks and platforms we are part of, such as the ISEAL Alliance and the Global Living Wage coalition, we are constantly thinking about other key human rights issues, and how ASC can help to support those. Examples include Living Wage, Gender Equality, and Worker Voice.
Living wage is a payment for a workweek (without overtime) that is sufficient to afford a decent standard of living for the worker and her or his family. This means workers being able to afford food, water, housing, education, health care, transportation, clothing, and provisions for unexpected events. Having a living wage means that people can live a dignified life and are able to invest in their own, and their children’s future. At ASC, we are currently working to ensure that in the future, ASC certified farms and feed mills pay their workers a living wage. Initially, we are focusing on measurement and improvement, recognising that a living wage is different in each location and that the journey to paying a living wage may be a long one.
The aquaculture sector employs millions of people, both on farms and in the rest of the supply chain (such as hatcheries and processing plants, as well as feed mills). Estimates of how many of those employees are women differ. But what is clear is that women face numerous barriers in the sector. Gender inequality is visible in gender pay gaps, differences in security of employment contracts, sexual harassment in and outside of the workplace, and underrepresentation of women in higher management positions in the seafood industry. Gender stereotypes and social norms are often at the core of these differences. At ASC, we are trying to understand the main issues that farms and feed mills face in addressing gender inequality and developing ways to support them to do so.
When we talk about ‘worker voice’, what we mean is a way in which employees can influence their workplace and their experiences at work. Having effective worker voice means that workers are aware of their rights and employers recognise those rights, and that they are free and able to represent their own interests and concerns or are represented by a collective. Also, it means that they have access to safe mechanisms to raise their grievances and can be confident that their employers will act on the issues they raise. ASC has been working to improve how worker voice is included in the requirements in the Farm and Feed Standards and has developed guidance on how to implement this. We are also working on building partnerships to connect workers to existing external grievance mechanisms, providing extra support for workers if they want to report an issue.
What You Can Do
Protecting human rights is a pressing issue worldwide, and as seafood consumers, you, too can play a role in upholding them. Your shopping choices may seem like a small action when compared with the challenge of international human rights, but a lot of small actions soon add up. Responsible farming can greatly help to reduce inequalities and protect human rights. By choosing ASC certified seafood you are rewarding those farmers who are already acting responsibly, and that could encourage more farmers to follow suit.
To know more about how ASC contributes to ensuring social equity and human rights, read more here.