tokyo, japan: international conference on seafood transparency & sustainability

A couple of days before Tokyo, I googled social impact and found the International Conference on Seafood Transparency and Sustainability via Eventbrite. Similar to other events I have found in advance, I am not so sure what to expect (or even if the event will be spoken in English :)!). I love not knowing and then being surprised no matter what I walk into! I was excited to attend especially since seafood transparency is something I do not know much about.

On my way to the conference, I told my hostel roommate about what I was doing for the day. Turns out he is doing his PhD on social responsibility in Germany! How fitting!! The conference was held at Waseda University in Tokyo. It was so nice to be on a campus and feel the energy and opportunity via the student body.

When I arrived to the International Affairs building, I was given a set of headphones to translate the material into English :) The beautiful auditorium was filled with hundreds of people and the agenda for the two-day conference had a long list of highly established and reputable people in government and business from Japan and other countries around the world.

I was so excited to open the booklet and see the mission highlighted with the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development goals. The global goals are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The focus of this conference was #14: Life below water: the need to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing through seafood transparency.

The theme of the conference was to discuss the facts, issues and consequences with unregulated fishing, the proposed solutions and the hopes and plans to work together internationally to ensure a "peaceful, bountiful, happy world for the generation to come" - Mr. Shigeru Ishiba, member of House of Representatives.

I gained so much knowledge from this conference in terms of sustainable fishing, as well as a model to apply to other Global Goals: quantify/understand the issue, evaluate it and come up with strong actions to achieve change. I vigorously took notes throughout the session as the speakers inspired a lot of thoughts inside my head. 

First and foremost, the importance of understanding the why. Why is this issue happening? In this case, why are people fishing illegally? Why are people fishing legally? Why are consumers buying from good sources? Why are they not? Why are less people wanting to work in the fishing industry? Why do some countries have less strict restrictions? Why are we losing money? The list goes on and on but being able to understand "why" helps you to identify the root cause necessary to make change.

Being able to be empathetic to the parties involved and see the human and emotion behind why things are happening enables you to create effective change. Additionally, partnerships are a huge piece of a solution's success. This conference brought together stakeholders from all over the globe, scaling the impact and strengthening its power. By working together across the globe (businesses, suppliers, consumers and government), more actions can be made and more change can occur.

When it came down to the details about implementation for action, the themes of traceability, accountability, authenticity, incentivize, policy, collaboration and cooperation stood out to me. Even when things are difficult to achieve, it is important to have goals engrained in these values in order to lead to strong goals and strong results.

I feel so grateful to have been able to hear from people creating such great change in the world. My mind was spiraling as I got back on the train. It sparked ideas and questions in my mind about fishing and other industries. It also made me think of who the audience and speakers were and how to palatably bring this information in a fun and engaging way to people not as close to the issue. 

I reflected back to my time at Unilever and am so grateful for all I learned and the exposure to be able to work with and impact the Global Goals. While I have been traveling, I have not seen as much talk or visuals of the Global Goals as would be expected. My hope is as the movement continues to grow that there can be more and more visibility and awareness of this framework, what it will deliver and how each individual can get involved. I am excited to continue increasing my awareness and education with the Global Goals in order to take action and create change.

1 and 2 are some pamphlets from the conference. The 3rd is a picture from the subway on my way to the university! Green Computing Systems R&D Center- how cool!! 

Lauren WittigComment