Analysts have warned the key to the success of Compass's new sustainable fish policy is going to be in the caterer's ability to maintain a sustainable price point.
While food service consultant Chris Stern called the announcement "a good message for the rest of the world," he added that many operators were already substituting endangered species for sustainable fish as they were cheaper alternatives, which implies that the decision by Compass makes sound business sense as well as environmental sense.
Looking at the long-term implications, Tim Cookson, chairman of Litmus Partnership, warned that the ban might cause more issues as the increased demand for sustainable fish could cause substantial price hikes - something his research has found the customer is not prepared to pay for.
"In several recent studies consumers say they want the sustainable option, but the results also reveal they are reluctant to pay more for it," said Cookson.
Another industry source said the move smacked of "headline grabbing, rather than rock-solid principle", and that sustainable fishing was just the latest fad cause being peddled to capture the imagination of the public.
However, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) welcomed the news. Simon Brockington, MCS head of conservation, congratulated Compass, saying: "Compass is leading the catering sector in addressing fisheries' sustainability. By removing stocks from our ‘fish to avoid' list, Compass is helping to reduce demand for over-exploited fish. This is a crucial step in ensuring the long-term survival of vulnerable fisheries."
The world's largest contract caterer has pledged to stop serving 69 varieties of endangered species in its 6,500 canteens, restaurants, "grab-and-go" offerings or at hospitality events unless the advice from the MCS changes.
The species on Compass's Fish to Avoid list have been identified by the MCS as the "most vulnerable to over-fishing and/or are fished using methods which cause damage to the environment or non-target species" and include four varieties of skate, five tunas and two types of plaice.
By Janie Stamford
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