British Columbia-based consulting firm Postelsie develops location-based solutions to transform complex seafood supply networks into more direct supply chains.
Laura and Corey Peet named their company Postelsie after their favorite seaweed. Postelsie grows only along the west coast of North America, where wave action is most intense. The couple believe that the ability of algae to thrive under harsh conditions is an apt metaphor for sustainable food systems as they reconcile market realities with the ecological constraints of a healthy planet.
With backgrounds in international environmental policy and ocean-focused marine science respectively, Laura and Corey Peet initially founded Postelsie in 2009 to consult on aquaculture improvement projects in Southeast Asia. Years of traveling, living, and counseling in Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand have revealed that traditional certifications and standards do not engage, protect or distinguish small seafood producers enough. Postelsie exists to create solutions to these challenges at both ends of the supply chain.
Since seven years, Postelsie worked with the Asian Seafood Improvement Collaborative (ASIC) to engage stakeholders across Southeast Asia to address social, environmental and traceability issues facing producers. ASIC is an improvement program that enables recognition of producers based on international sustainability requirements and helps connect innovative producers to more valuable markets. In this context, with thousands of small farmers, Corey explains to Food Tank: âIt’s not really a supply chain, it’s a supply network. And this is the problem: how to really bring transparency and lighting to this canvas? “
Where this network remains opaque, there are still opportunities for fraud and violation of workers’ rights. So Postelsie focuses on assessing more than environmental impact. Laura tells Food Tank that working with ASIC “allowed us to focus on how to integrate social sustainability into standardization work.” ASIC and Postelsie engage stakeholders to develop the social and gender standard ASIC which focuses on preventing forced labor or children, ensuring gender equality and non-discrimination, and promoting safety and respect At work.
Postelsie seeks to identify where producers stand on a range of transparent and sustainable practices, and then create specific, location-appropriate solutions that improve practices beyond mere compliance. Corey told Food Tank: âThe problem that we believe exists in the sustainable seafood movement is that it is very difficult for innovative producers to be recognized. Certification standards, while great tools, are more about recognizing that you are not bad, not that you are the best or that you are really good. By implementing a more nuanced and multi-level evaluation standard, Postelsie wishes to recognize producers whose environmental and social practices set them apart from the field and to guide producers towards continuous improvement.
Putting standards in place at both ends of the food chain allows chefs and buyers to buy from companies that are actively improving their practices. Corey says, “When you have these relationships in the supply chain, it leads to better results against that cold arm of certification that is often imposed on producers.” Postelsie believes that by engaging stakeholders on the producer side in the development of standards, producers will be more likely to adopt the standards enthusiastically and see the nuances of their history, product and operation properly valued on the market.
Telling farmer stories and building relationships with innovative buyers can help transform supply networks into supply chains. With the James Beard Foundation (JBF), Postelsie will relaunch Smart Catch, a sustainability education and assessment program created by chefs for chefs.
Using the Seafood Watch program’s green (best choice), yellow (good alternative) and red (avoid) rating system, the Smart Catch program recognizes chefs and restaurants serving sustainable seafood. The program encourages continuous improvement by providing a nuanced standard that recognizes superior performance. In addition to green, red and yellow, a new gray designation will mean a producer is improving. Buying from improvement projects, Laura tells Food Tank: âThis is just another way to empower these chefs to be levers for change. Previously, the program established âEngagedâ chefs and restaurants and those who were âLeadersâ. Moving forward, Postelsie plans to implement a tiered structure to enable them to recognize chefs and restaurants who go beyond participation and compliance to become industry leaders and ambassadors.
In 2020, Postelsie is now part of Where Food Comes From, a global third-party certification and verification service based in Colorado. With Where Food Comes From providing core audit expertise, Postelsie continues to focus on location-based solutions and new assurance and verification models. In addition to their work with ASIC and the Smart Catch Restaurant Sustainability Program, Postelsie launched its FishCARE standard for terrestrial aquaculturists which will focus on animal care, environmental stewardship, people and the community. Postelsie is also working with producers in Japan on local solutions to improve the seafood industry and recognize outstanding producers with their multi-level standard.
Corey told Food Tank, “We see a ton of value in the nuance that exists and has yet to be celebrated.”
Photo courtesy of Lawrence Hookham, Unsplash