Consulting firm based in British Columbia Postelsien develops location-based solutions to transform complex seafood supply networks into more direct supply chains.
Laura and Corey Peet named their company Postelsien for their favorite algae. Postelsien grows only along the west coast of North America, where the wave motion is most intense. The two believe that the ability of algae to thrive in harsh conditions is a fitting metaphor for sustainable food systems as it balances the realities of the market with the ecological constraints of a healthy planet.
With a background in ocean-related, international environmental policy and marine science, Laura and Corey initially founded Peet Postelsien 2009 to advise on projects to improve aquaculture in Southeast Asia. Years of traveling, living and advising in Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand have shown that traditional certifications and standards do not adequately involve, protect and distinguish the small fish producers. Postelsien exists to provide solutions to these challenges at both ends of the supply chain.
In the past seven years Postelsien worked with that Asian cooperation to improve seafood (ASIC) to engage stakeholders across Southeast Asia to solve social, environmental and traceability challenges faced by producers. ASIC is an improvement program that enables the recognition of producers on the basis of international sustainability requirements and helps to connect innovative producers with more valuable markets. In this context, with thousands of smallholders, Corey told Food Tank, “It’s not really a supply chain, it’s a delivery network. And that is the problem: How do you really bring transparency and lighting into this network? “
Where this web remains opaque, there are opportunities for fraud and violations of workers’ rights. So Postelsien focuses on assessing more than just environmental impacts. Laura tells Food Tank that working with ASIC “made us focus on how to incorporate social sustainability into working with standardization.” ASIC and Postelsien engage stakeholders to develop the ASIC social and gender standard, which focuses on preventing forced or child labor, ensuring gender equality and non-discrimination, and promoting safety and respect in the workplace.
Postelsien seeks to identify where manufacturers fall on a spectrum of transparency and sustainable practices, and then develop specific, location-based solutions that improve practices beyond mere compliance. Corey told Food Tank, “The problem that we believe exists with the sustainable seafood movement is that it is very difficult for innovative producers to get recognized. The certification standards are great tools, but the real thing is to see that you are not bad, not the best, or really good. ”By implementing a more nuanced, tiered assessment standard, Postelsien hopes to recognize producers whose environmental and social practices set them apart from the industry and who direct producers towards continuous improvement.
With standards at both ends of the grocery chain, chefs and buyers can shop at establishments that are actively improving their practices. Corey says, “Having these relationships in the supply chain gives better results than just that cold arm of certification that is often placed on manufacturers.” Postelsien Believes that manufacturers are more enthusiastic about adopting standards and adequately assess the nuances of their history, product and activity in the market by involving manufacturers’ stakeholders in the development of standards.
Telling stories from producers and building relationships with innovative buyers can help transform supply networks into supply chains. With the James Beard Foundation (JBF), Postelsien will launch Smart Catch, a sustainability education and assessment program developed by chefs for chefs.
With the Seafood Watch program’s rating system of green (best choice), yellow (good alternative) and red (avoid), the Smart Catch program recognizes chefs and restaurants that offer sustainable seafood. The program encourages continuous improvement by providing a differentiated standard that recognizes superior performance. In addition to green, red, and yellow, a new gray label means a manufacturer is improving. Laura buys from improvement projects and says to Food Tank, “Is just one more way to enable these chefs to be the levers of change.” Previously, the program established chefs and restaurants who were “engaged” and those who were “leaders”. Go forward, Postelsien plans to implement a tiered structure that will allow them to recognize chefs and restaurants that go beyond involvement and compliance to become leaders and ambassadors in the industry.
In 2020, Postelsien became part of Where Food Comes From, a global third-party certification and verification service based in Colorado. With Where Food Comes From provides core verification capabilities, Postelsien continues to focus on location-based solutions and new models of validation and verification. In addition to her work with ASIC and the restaurant sustainability program Smart Catch, Postelsien launched their FishCARE standard for land based aquaculture farmers, which will focus on animal care, environmental stewardship, and people and community. Postelsien is also working with producers in Japan on location-based solutions to improve the fish industry and reward exceptional producers with their tiered standard.
Corey told Food Tank, “We see a lot of value in the nuances that exist and have yet to be celebrated.”
Photo courtesy Lawrence Hookham, Unsplash