An estimated 70 per cent of farmed aquatic species are dependent on feed and it drives major environmental and social impacts of aquaculture.
Therefore, it was important for the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) to define precisely what constitutes responsible aquaculture feed production.
The development of the standard began in October 2013 with the drafting of a Terms of Reference (ToR) for the project and the establishment of the Steering Committee. This diverse, global, group of stakeholders, comprised of feed producers, retailers, NGOs, farmers, and other experts, was responsible for overseeing the standard development process. Over the course of the Project, the Steering Committee met around twice per year in-person and had teleconference calls between in-person meetings.
The Steering Committee has been overseen by the ASC Technical Advisory Group (TAG) and the ASC Supervisory Board (SB).
The Steering Committee has made recommendations on the Standard content to the TAG, which has made an endorsement of the content and a final recommendation to the SB. The SB is the decision-making body.
In 2014, five Technical Working Groups (TWGs) were setup to determine what ‘responsible’ should mean for their areas of expertise. The TWGs covered the main aqua feed ingredient groups: 1) marine ingredients, 2) terrestrial plant ingredients, 3) terrestrial animal ingredients, 4) micro ingredients. A fifth TWG focussed on feed mill requirements and supply chain control. As a starting point for each group discussion, a number of specific White Papers were drafted. These papers presented an overview of the current environmental and social issues, as well as technical challenges and outlined discussion points. The key role of the TWGs was to develop concept criteria and indicators for the Feed Standard based on the starting point of these White Papers.
On the basis of the TWG discussions and recommendations, a first draft Standard was developed. This document contained, besides draft content, a number of directional questions on which the Steering Committee sought stakeholder input.
Consultation ran from 30th June 2015 until 11th September 2015. Alongside digital outreach to stakeholders, there were also 4 global (Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Santiago) outreach events organised to elaborate on the initial draft of the ASC Feed Standard and discuss with stakeholders on the content.
Stakeholder feedback was analysed by the SC and TWGs and processed into a second draft.
After further of the Standard, a second consultation period was conducted between 21st August 2017 and 21st October 2017. As with the first draft, several workshops and webinars were given to update stakeholders on the revised content and solicit input. In addition, targeted consultations were held in order to allow for more specific input and understanding with key stakeholders (feed manufacturers, ingredient suppliers, raw material producers, NGOs and retail).
The content of the second draft no longer contained directional questions, but provided a complete (draft) overview of the Criteria, Indicators and Annexes.
The comments from the second public consultation were reviewed and a final draft of the Feed Standard developed.
It became clear from the comments, that the requirements listed under the Plant Ingredient section gave cause for concern with several stakeholder groups. The feedback indicated that manufacturers foresaw unrealistic challenges with regards to achievability of the content – and NGOs expressed the concern that, although the intent was good, the scope of issues to be addressed for this ingredient category was too wide to be pragmatic.
A decision was made to focus in this final version of the Standard, on deforestation/land conversion as the main impact related to agriculture-driven commodities. A collaboration with the Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) was established and requirements regarding “deforestation/conversion-free” were constructed for use in the (aqua)feed industry. Although the topic was already consulted upon in the second draft, additional workshops and targeted consultation was held with experts to validate achievability.
In parallel with this standard development process, pilots were conducted in order to assess the clarity of the document during an actual audit. Feedback resulted in changes to improve clarity and readability of the document.
Following the endorsement by the Steering Committee and the Technical Advisory Group in summer 2020, the ASC Supervisory Board approved the ASC Feed Standard as well. A final cross-check on completeness and clarity of the document was undertaken in order to make implementation by the feed mills, and auditing against it, as clear as possible. This included a scrutiny test of indicator language and document cohesion from an (mill) implementation perspective and a scrutiny test of indicator language and document cohesion from an (auditor) auditing perspective.
In addition to certification, the ASC Standards also act as a reference point within the wider seafood sustainability movement. For this purpose, aligning content with international benchmarking and reporting organisations is crucial.
After SB approval, the revised criteria from the Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative (part of Consumer Goods Forum) became available. These focus on social concerns within a Manufacturing and Processing scope and as such are of relevance for Principle 1 of the Feed Standard. The Supervisory Board has mandated both the ASC Feed Standard and the (aligned) ASC Farm Standard to comply with this initiative, ultimately leading to (public) SSCI recognition. As a result, a number of (social) indicators in Principle 1 have been revised, or added in order to comply with the wider SSCI benchmark.
Next to SSCI, the ASC Standards also seek to align with requirements of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) to the extent possible. Consequently, a number of indicators (or their annexes) have been revised for this purpose. [/attention]
The ASC Feed Standard was published on 15th June 2021 and can be accessed here.
For further information on the standard development, meeting minutes, consultation records and summary documents can be found below.
In accordance with the ISEAL Standard Setting Code, ASC must review the ASC Feed standard by 2027 at the latest (5 years after the effective date). The review of the ASC Feed Standard will tentatively start in 2024/2025.