The Endeavors of the World’s Largest Salmon Farming Company- Nurturing the Future in the Ocean that Covers 70% of the Planet’s Surface(Part 1)

The Endeavors of the World’s Largest Salmon Farming Company- Nurturing the Future in the Ocean that Covers 70% of the Planet’s Surface(Part 1)

Norway-based Mowi is the world’s largest salmon farming company. With “Leading the Blue Revolution” as its corporate vision, Mowi seeks to achieve sustainable food production that draws out the potential of the ocean. For five years running, the company has captured first place in the global meat, dairy, and farmed fish producer sustainability ranking by Coller FAIRR (The Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index). We spoke with Catarina Martins, Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Mowi.

 

Catarina Martins
Catarina Martins is the Chief Sustainability and Technology officer at Mowi ASA (Norway). Catarina coordinates the implementation of Mowi’s sustainability strategy, Leading the Blue Revolution Plan, which includes innovation activities related to fish health and welfare, quality, processing, data analysis, and seawater and freshwater farming technologies. She has a PhD in Aquaculture from Wageningen University (The Netherlands), an MBA from The Norwegian School of Economics (Norway), an MSc in Marine Biology from the University of Lisbon (Portugal) and supplementary education on Corporate Sustainability from Harvard University (USA). After serving as a researcherat Wageningen University, at the Centre for Marine Sciences (CCMAR) in Portugal and at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, she joined Mowi in 2013.

 

Vertical integration and a clear strategy that achieve sustainability

―― How does Mowi achieve such high performance through sustainability?

There are two big reasons. One is the vertical integration of businesses not found in other companies and the other is a clear strategy.

In terms of vertical integration, Mowi performs key business activities entirely in-house, including production of feed, breeding and breed improvement, freshwater and seawater farming, processing, secondary processing, marketing, and branding. For many companies, there is often a break somewhere in these activities.

Mowi’s farming sites are in Norway, Scotland, Ireland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Chile, and Canada. Chile and Canada aside, all feed used in Europe is produced in-house. In breed improvement, as in the procurement of feed, Mowi internally makes decisions on what aspects to emphasize, such as growth performance or disease resistance. Fins, tails, and other non-edible parts are processed in-house for uses including fish oil and feed for pets or other fish.

 

From breed improvement and feed production to freshwater and seawater farming, harvesting, processing, distribution, product development, marketing, and branding, Mowi undertakes all steps in-house

 

I think Mowi’s sustainability strategy is unique in that it’s tied to R&D and innovation, not to public relations, external relations, and CSR. In other words, it focuses on results and on practical initiatives, not on slogans and communications.

Another feature is that the sustainability team is placed directly under the CEO. I think Mowi is the only aquaculture company that does this. In the past three or four years, in particular, financial institutions and investors have placed an emphasis on sustainability. They increasingly have experts on staff and ask for detailed and concrete explanations about matters, including climate change, biodiversity, freshwater, and seawater. As CSO, I field these questions.

Within the company, too, I clearly explain sustainability targets, KPIs, and systems, and structure these things to function effectively. I keep in mind to make things as simple as possible and understandable for anyone in the company.

 

Mowi produces approximately 450,000 tons of Atlantic salmon annually. This means that 20% of the world’s Atlantic salmon is produced by Mowi.

 

Run by three full-time sustainability staff members, and implemented by internal network

── Could you talk a bit more about Mowi’s structure for sustainability initiatives?

The team in charge of sustainability is very small. On-site work is implemented by internal network. This network consists of a strategy network and an operations network that is closely tied to work sites.

The strategy network holds committee meetings every six months to review the Blue Revolution Plan set out in Mowi’s corporate vision. The implementation network drafts and carries out implementation plans in every area including feed, aquaculture, and the environment, and meets with the strategy network every quarter and delivers reports.

The entities behind the operations network are staff selected from all plants worldwide. As examples, these are operations managers and staff in charge of procurement at feed plants, and quality managers, environmental coordinators, and staff persons in charge of freshwater farming at farms. Their job types vary from engineers to managers.

Staff at all plants worldwide exchange work site information and share their knowledge to tackle sustainability. Even on minor things like the choice and use of a single drainage hose, they recommend better choices to each other and share knowledge and know-how from the field. Having people at work sites tackle things with a sense of personal involvement, rather than issuing instructions from a central source, is the key to success. Otherwise, things are forced on people and don’t lead to authenticity.

 

Mowi sets out “Leading the Blue Revolution” as its corporate vision aimed at sustainable food production that leverages the power of the oceans to support the world’s population. Above: From the “Blue Revolution Plan” introductory video

 

── How many people are actually on the small team in charge of sustainability?
Three, including me.

── Three people! That’s really small. How can that number of people look across the whole company?

What’s important is focusing. We understand the whole picture and focus on the “hot spots” that should be tackled first. Even when there are a lot of important things, other than the hot spots, we set things aside for the time being. When one hot spot is resolved, we then go on to the next.

In addition, the three of us are not an executing team. Our roles are to look out overall situations from data, determine policy strategically, and make collaborative connections among work sites. Execution is carried out by the operations network. On top of that, we conduct quarterly internal audits and yearly external audits.

Our activities are embedded in the organization. This is more efficient than having 20 sustainability staff members running around. As the number of people grows, sharing information requires more time and effort, and slows down.

 

Transparent information sharing and communication are the keys

―― Although you’ve built an efficient system, getting initiatives led by employees would seem to require very close communication.

That’s correct. Communication is the key. Mowi, as a whole, is an extremely large organization, so considerable effort is needed. First, with everyone having their own work, getting members to contribute to the network isn’t easy.

Members of the in-house operations network are collaborative to achieve sustainability, but from the perspective of our company’s structure, we are connected by dotted lines, not solid lines. So, if members don’t believe in the things we do and don’t take action with the same passion, things won’t function.

 

An in-house network spreading across work sites worldwide supports Mowi’s sustainability (Photo by Vegard Stien)

 

―― But sustainability itself isn’t a KPI for staff at work sites. How are you able to keep them motivated to address sustainability?

Tackling sustainability and generating results are things that help themselves. Members have their own work and their own KPIs. Solutions undertaken together with our sustainability team help achieve their KPIs and connect to their success.

Sustainability initiatives and members’ own work are in a win-win relationship. As an example, energy saving also reduces costs. It is the same for efficient use of resources. Reporting costs that are reduced through initiatives to managers lets them know that sustainability is not a burden. This, too, is important.

That’s why it’s essential to clearly share sustainability targets, measurements, reporting processes, and KPIs within the company and to be highly transparent. Creating such a structure takes time, which I think makes it difficult for other companies to copy.

 

>>>In Part II, Catarina Martins talks about data analysis and other systems for promoting innovation, and balancing sustainability and profit as  Chief Technology Officer (CTO), and her passions for aquaculture,

 

 

Original Japanese text by: Keiko Ihara