A number of changes are underway in Japan’s seafood industry. A 2020 fisheries law significantly changed Japan’s fisheries management, and Japanese producers and harvesters are increasingly adopting measures to provide assurances of responsible supply geared both toward the domestic market – where consumer interest in sustainable seafood is growing – and for exports, which have increased as domestic consumption has dwindled.
Nissui Corp. has been a leader in the Japanese fishing industry for over 100 years. As its looks to the future, Nissui is utilizing its strengths to tackle multifaceted social issues such as the sustainable use of marine resources and human rights in the supply chain under its mission of “create a healthier, more sustainable future through innovative food solutions” Mr. Shingo Hamada, President and CEO of Nissui Corporation, talks in detail about the company’s sustainability activities.
Shingo Hamada Joined Nippon Suisan Kaisha, Ltd. in 1983. Started in research and held successive roles in food production plant management and as head of the food production division. Driving food business as a corporate officer since 2014. Appointed Chief Executive Officer in 2021. The company changed to its current name Nissui Corporation in 2022.
This is the second in a series of five Seafood2030 interviews focused on exploring the growing influence of sustainable practices and responsible management on Japanese seafood production, completed in conjunction with Seafood Legacy, which provided assistance with translation. Founded in 2015, Seafood Legacy is a nonprofit organization offering sustainable seafood consulting and platforming services to Japanese seafood businesses and government entities.
Seafood2030 has sustainability resources translated into Japanese available for companies here.
SS: Your company has had a very interesting development and growth to get where you are today, can you tell us how Nissui grew into the company it is today?
Hamada: Nissui Corporation was founded in 1911 in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, and started out in the trawling business. We developed various related businesses such as processing and sales of fishery products of various kinds, including those from trawling, as well as a network of refrigerated warehouses, growing to become part of the Nissan Concern. [Nissan Concern: One of the business conglomerates (Zaibatsu) that existed before World War II]. After being broken up under the wartime economy, the company was reconstituted as Nippon Suisan Kaisha,Ltd to operate fishing and related businesses in 1945.
We then expanded our operations during the economic boom years, but restrictions on exclusive economic zones by coastal countries forced us to gradually withdraw from deep-sea fisheries, leading to a period of sluggish business. However, through restructuring in the late 1990s and 2000s and improved access to global fishery resources, we have been growing our business once again.
Our current businesses include seafood products, food, and fine chemicals. In 2022, we underwent a corporate rebranding while taking as our mission to create a healthier, more sustainable future through innovative food solutions.. We formulated our long-term vision, “Good Foods 2030,” of our 2030 aspiration to be “A leading company that delivers friendly foods for people and the earth” as well as our medium-term business plan for achieving that, “Good Foods Recipe1” (fiscal years 2022-24). To get beyond fisheries and put our focus on food, we changed our name to Nissui Corporation.
SS: When did you begin to engage with sustainability more accurately? Have you gone through any transitions or particular difficulties in your efforts?
Hamada: In the 2000s, Nissui Group considered the business objective of procuring seafood products and providing them to customers around the world to be a contribution to society. However, by the middle of the 2010s, due to changes in the business environment, we started to consider that CSR should be positioned as the foundation of our business.
As a result, we decided to incorporate CSR for the first time into our medium-term business plan “MVIP2017” (fiscal years 2015-17). In 2016, we published our CSR Action Statement and identified three material factors:
・Preserve the bountiful sea and promote the sustainable utilization of marine resources and their procurement
・Contribute to a healthy lifestyle with food safety and security
・Aim to be a company where diverse human capital play an important role to address the social agenda
One difficult initiative for us was our “Survey on the status of marine resources procured by the Nissui Groups” (the first survey was published in 2018, and the second study was published in 2021). For this survey, it took us about a year to collect, organize, and analyze detailed data on seafood products that we deal with from our group companies inside and outside Japan. This was probably the first time worldwide for a company in our line of business to do a survey like this, and we got a great response when the survey results were presented at the SeaBOS CEO conference.
SS: Nissui is engaging in a broad range of issues beyond fishery resource sustainability and ocean plastic, how are these efforts is contributing to your organizational and business development?
Hamada: For us, the “create a healthier, more sustainable future through innovative food solutions.,” as held by our new mission formulated in 2022, and “A leading company that delivers friendly foods for people and the earth.,” as expressed by our long-term vision, are not just a matter of environmentally friendly food. We aim to deliver food in a way that also achieves respect for human rights in our supply chain as well as stakeholder well-being. We believe these efforts will generate value in the four areas of environment, society, human capital, and economics, leading to increased corporate value. Furthermore, our active approach toward resolving various social issues will lead to increase employee engagement.
SS: What does that look like in terms of improving products and supply chain transparency?
Hamada: Nissui Group’s Quality Assurance Charter stipulates that we will provide customers with accurate, easy-to-understand information on our products, such as manufacturing processes, origins and history of raw materials, nutritional composition, and allergen information. Not only will these disclosures be helpful to customers in selecting products they will also provide peace of mind by dispelling questions and concerns about safety, leading, in turn to greater brand credibility.
Moreover, understanding and disclosing information on health and nutrition and supply chain sustainability also differentiates fishery products. As an example, in joint research with universities and research institutions, we found that intake of protein derived from Alaska pollock results in muscle gain. We have now named this Alaska pollock protein “Sokkin Tanpaku” (“fast muscle protein”) and, in fishcakes and other products made with Alaska pollock surimi, we communicate this to customers by way of a unique logo, helping to meet health needs for consumers utilizing the functionality of fishery products.
Getting a quantitative understanding of upstream-to-downstream supply chain information, such as human rights risks and environmental impacts, is a difficult task, but if you can show them, for example, that the carbon footprint of fishery products is low compared to that of other proteins, then you should be able to achieve further differentiation.
We also actively make disclosures to stakeholders regarding sustainability itself through our website, our Sustainability Reports, and the like.
SS: Tell us about the efforts that came out of your “Survey on the status of marine resources procured by the Nissui Group” carried out in 2017 and 2020.
Hamada: The first study was an unprecedented effort, so we conducted the study and assessment entirely in-house. We need to admit there was a challenge when it came to the accuracy of assessment and study scope because we took into account the significance of getting a sense of the overall picture first. Moreover, in the second study, we secured the impartiality of a third party by employing analysis and assessment by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) instead of doing the assessment in-house. We also added fish oil and fish meal for mixed feeds at their preprocessed weights, expanding the scope of the study.
According to SFP’s analysis, 71% of our procurement in 2020 was in the categories “Well managed or “Managed resources,” but 8% of resources were in need of improvement, and the score was Not scored. Undetermined was 21% of resources.
This study enabled us to get a high-level understanding of where Nissui Group’s challenges lay within the context of our global fishery product procurement. For example, it highlighted procurement from ocean regions where resource assessment data was lacking with regard to small pelagic fisheries that provide raw materials for mixed feeds. It also established the inclusion of fish species classified as endangered by the IUCN.
In response to these results, we have now begun collecting information through our participation in the Global Roundtable on Marine Ingredients, and we also formulated a procurement policy regarding endangered species (fishery products) in 2022. Based on this policy, we have established measures with regard to fish species at particularly high risk of extinction and verified their validity through dialogue with third parties (NGOs, academia, and other research institutions) involved in marine resource conservation.
SS: Nissui collaborates with many organizations, including SeaBOS, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, and Seafood Legacy, and you also deal in ASC-, BAP-, and MSC-certified products. Why are you engaging so enthusiastically with sustainability partners?
Hamada: One of the three material factors that we identified in 2016, “Preserve the bountiful sea and promote the sustainable utilization of marine resources and their procurement,” is a special theme for us as Nissui Group’s business is highly dependent on natural capital, and we feel that we should take on greater responsibility in our efforts. We also strongly believe that working toward sustainability is crucial to Nissui Group’s future growth. We still face numerous challenges, and there are many tasks that we cannot handle fully, but we will strive toward solutions with the cooperation of our stakeholders.
SS: Are there economic benefits to engagement with sustainability? Or do you believe that there are?
Hamada: Tradeoffs do arise. In the short term, and that is the most difficult aspect of moving forward with engagement. But I think it is important not to be shortsighted but to think from the medium- to long-term perspective. That is because I believe our engagement with sustainability will generate value in the four areas of environment, society, human capital, and economics, leading to increased corporate value.
SS: What are the sustainability issues that will be of particular emphasis for Nissui in the future and how you will address them.
Hamada: Nissui will place particular emphasis on initiatives in the areas of climate change, human rights in our supply chain, and marine biodiversity. Additionally, we have positioned health need solutions as an important theme for Nissui Group’s medium- to long-term growth. Harnessing our research and development capabilities to help meet the health needs of consumers will create social value while also leading to the creation of economic value in the form of increased revenue through business growth.
Regarding the development of Nissui Group as a whole, we have for some time been holding the semiannual Nissui Global Links Conference (NGLC), where our group companies from around the world come together to engage in a lively discussion regarding various themes, including sustainability issues. This year, we established a new logo for “Nissui GLOBAL LINKS” (the interconnectedness of Nissui Group companies spanning the globe). The new logo will increase the sense of unity and identification with our mission and vision at the global level, further advancing our efforts toward sustainability.
SS: All of this investment in sustainability should resonate with international markets as much as Japan’s domestic market…
Hamada: People’s needs for food are becoming more diverse, for instance, good taste, health, or environmental friendliness and a sustainable future. We aim to be a leader as we expand globally while pursuing new possibilities for a variety of foods and create new foods that nourish the mind and body as well as new foods that resolve social issues. Cooperation of stakeholders around the world is essential for the growth of Nissui Group and the realization of a sustainable future, so we look forward to working with you in the time to come.
Read on SeafoodSource >>>Nissui President and CEO Shingo Hamada diversifying his company’s sustainability approach