“When it came to our attention that food distributor Sysco Corporation was one of several large U.S. companies that were buying fish caught by people who were trafficked into slavery in Indonesia, we immediately initiated an engagement,” the San Francisco-based asset manager said in a statement. “Parnassus’s goal was to convince Sysco to take decisive action to eliminate slavery in its supply chain, because we will not hold the stock of companies that profit from slavery.”
The comments stemmed from press reports in 2015 that Asian workers often endure brutal servitude as they process fish for Sysco, Wal-Mart and other companies.
Thai boat owners might enslave Burmese workers who fish in Indonesian waters, the reports and Parnassus wrote. The men can work 20 to 22 hours a day. Their masters often beat or whip them with toxic stingray tails if they pause to rest.
Fish from slave ships is often mixed with legally caught fish, making it hard for authorities to distinguish which catch occurred in oppressive conditions.
After the investors sounded alarms, Sysco implemented a supplier code of conduct that cracked down on forced labor, discrimination and other issues that reportedly are prevalent on some fishing boats in Asia.
Sysco eliminated 38 percent of its seafood suppliers after the code took effect. The company has also hired Southeast Asian employees who speak local languages to help stop slavery and partnered with the World Wildlife Foundation, which monitors illegal fishing.
Image credit: Peter Shanks via Flickr