Sourcing Seafood Sustainably: YO!
YO! is a leading international sushi restaurant, known and loved for their conveyor belt sushi served on distinctive colour-coded dishes. What you might not realise is that they also have a deep-rooted commitment to sustainability, and that careful, sustainable sourcing of seafood is a core pillar of their business. We sat down with UK Sustainability Manager Louisa Bullard to talk about sustainable seafood at YO! and how they work with their supply chain to ensure their sushi is not only fresh, but planet-friendly, too.
“Sustainability at YO! is about better food for everyone,” explains UK Sustainability Manager Louisa Bullard. “For us, this means food that has a low impact on the environment and a socially inclusive approach to business, built upon a culture of trust.” This should be a core pillar for every type of business, Louisa notes. “Sustainability considerations now have an influence on purchasing decisions of customers, brand perception, employee retention, legislation compliance and investment opportunities.”
At The SRA, one of our fundamental beliefs is that restaurants hold great influence over consumer food decisions, and – consequently – that they have a moral obligation to wield this power for the good of society and the environment. This stance is reflected in the ethos at YO!. As a leading international restaurant business, the team here is keenly aware of their responsibility to provide products that are kind to both planet and people, not just now but into the future, too. This means building and embedding new ways of working and new considerations around decision making, as well as a lot of data collection.
For YO!, working through the Food Made Good Standard was a big part of this work. Having first signed up in 2018, they were awarded a highly impressive two stars in 2019 and again in 2023. “My advice would be to have a full understanding of the information required, and to gather data and supporting documentation in advance,” says Erica Gale, Group ESG Director for Snowfox Group, a portfolio of market leading global consumer brands which includes YO!, when asked what advice she’d give other businesses who are interested in the Standard. “Engage and involve all the relevant teams (including People, Procurement, Food and Marketing) so that they understand the programme, the types of information required and why it is important. The process takes time, resources and focus, so plan in advance to allocate these properly.”
The future of our oceans
As a sushi restaurant, seafood is central to the YO! offering, so it’s important that sourcing it sustainably is a core pillar of the business. “We have a responsibility to our customers as well as our supply chain to source our seafood as sustainably as we possibly can,” says Louisa. “If we don’t do this in the long term, we will lose customers.”
This responsibility extends beyond good business sense: it also has very real consequences for our planet. “With 90% of the world’s fish stocks now being overfished or fully exploited and with seafood making up nearly half of our food and beverage annual spend,” says Louisa, “we have an important role to play in safeguarding the future of our oceans.”
She highlights that healthy marine ecosystems are critically important not only to their business, but to over three billion people around the world who depend on the oceans for their primary source of protein. Fishing is also a major source of employment around the world, with 200 million people directly or indirectly employed in fisheries.
“As the world's population and reliance on fish as a source of protein and employment increases, the pressure on our oceans will only be exacerbated,” Louisa continues. “As a fish-focused business, we have a responsibility to use our purchasing power and brand influence to drive positive change that will help to protect our oceans, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy seafood in the way we do today.” Their passion for sourcing the freshest and highest quality sushi and seafood possible has always been one of the restaurant’s strategic priorities.
Sourcing seafood sustainably
How do they tackle this complex goal? Louisa acknowledges that it’s impossible to guarantee sustainable seafood without understanding the entire supply chain from start to finish. Yo! prioritises responsible sourcing practices by choosing to work with suppliers who share their commitment to sustainability. She highlights their reliance on distributors and suppliers’ knowledge of boats, fisheries and processing facilities, saying it’s been key to build a system where they can be confident in the quality of their data.
YO! is also proud to be a member of The Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC), using their Codes of Conduct and implementation plans – which incorporate a thorough risk assessment process – to guide their sourcing decisions.
Louisa points to having multiple certification standards as being helpful: not only does this keep them as informed as possible, but it also helps them communicate their work with their customers. The importance and complexity of certifications such as MSC, ASC and Global GAP are now regular topics of conversation within the company, while taking the Food Made Good Standard has helped by increasing the purchasing team’s awareness of the value chain, highlighting the importance of posing more questions to suppliers beyond those around food safety and cost.
All of the YO! salmon is farmed and is certified to Global GAP. The Tuna and Surimi are 100% MSC Certified.
Now and for the future
Setting ambitious but achievable targets is crucial to maintain momentum on any sustainability journey. Yo! has made formal commitments that 100% of tuna, salmon, prawns and surimi will be sustainably sourced by the end of 2023, with all other key ingredients (such as rice, chicken and beef) to be responsibly sourced by the end of 2025. Their sustainability targets and policies are all available on the YO! website, in a dedication to transparency we’d love to see mirrored across more of the industry.
Recognising the value of the FMG Standard as a tool for continuous improvement, the team at YO! is determined to keep moving forward. “We’re going to be working with The SRA to build out a roadmap that we can follow, working towards becoming an even more sustainable company and improving our star rating.” Meanwhile, they’ll also be continuing to stay ahead of legislative requirements for areas like food waste, plastic paper and packaging, carbon emissions reporting and responsible sourcing standards, while continuing to gather as much data as possible with the goal of reaching their Net Zero targets.
To learn more about YO!'s sustainability work, visit their website. Read more about sustainable sourcing of seafood on our News & Insights page, or learn how the Food Made Good Standard can act as a guiding light for your business here.
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