In­dus­try plat­form

Ste­wart Gra­ham

Fish Farmer - - Contents -

Ste­wart Gra­ham, manag­ing di­rec­tor of Gael Force Group and co-chair of the Aqua­cul­ture In­dus­try Lead­er­ship Group, ad­dressed the re­cent Cold Har­vest con­fer­ence in New­found­land, on the sub­ject of earn­ing so­cial li­cence and win­ning pub­lic trust. Here is an edited ver­sion of his talk.

Gael Force is 35 years’ old and I have seen this in­dus­try grow­ing from noth­ing in Scot­land and, in par­al­lel to New­found­land, re­plac­ing a lot of what was a tra­di­tional fish­ing in­dus­try.

I have seen, first-hand, the trans­for­ma­tional ben­e­fits aqua­cul­ture has brought to ru­ral and is­land com­mu­ni­ties in par­tic­u­lar. It has been an in­cred­i­ble game-changer, the sin­gle big­gest thing next to the oil in­dus­try.

Two years ago, we cre­ated an aqua­cul­ture strat­egy for Scot­land to 2030. We did that with­out au­thor­ity or with­out be­ing press-ganged.

We felt that while we were ge ng past our teething prob­lems, we’d never ac­tu­ally had a strat­egy. We were re­ally frus­trated that in 2003 we were pro­duc­ing 170,000 tonnes of salmon and there we were in 2016, pro­duc­ing 170,000 tonnes of salmon.

Although we’d had a cat­a­strophic im­plo­sion in 2003-2004 based on ISA, which took us down to be­low 100,000 tonnes, we had not moved on.

The first and early dis­cus­sions took place with the pro­duc­ers and, of course, the pro­duc­ers had a pro­duc­ers’ or­gan­i­sa­tion so there were some hur­dles to over­come there. We needed them to buy into the fact that there was, and al­ways will be, a wide and di­verse range of stake­hold­ers.

Once that penny dropped, with the pro­duc­ers recog­nis­ing and un­der­stand­ing the wider stake­holder needs, we then got the gov­ern­ment, the reg­u­la­tors and other stake­hold­ers to come to the ta­ble, in­clud­ing all sec­tions of the sup­ply chain, the lo­gis­tics, shell­fish, value added, com­pa­nies like our­selves, and all the var­i­ous agen­cies too.

Hav­ing iden­ti­fied all the stake­hold­ers, we had to un­der­stand their needs, start­ing with the Sco sh gov­ern­ment. On a na­tional level, we tried to un­der­stand what the gov­ern­ment might want from this sec­tor, and then ap­peal to them for some help, in­clud­ing with min­is­te­rial ap­point­ments.

And we as­sured them that, in our case, they didn’t have to spend any money! They would be re­ceiv­ing money from this growth in­dus­try that they were keen to en­cour­age.

With our strat­egy, we thought it was bet­ter to be un­der the um­brella of food and drink (which has been a mas­sive suc­cess story in Scot­land), rather than in a fish­eries sec­tor.

We es­tab­lished our strate­gic pri­or­i­ties, and then set out 20 rec­om­men­da­tions. We’re now work­ing through those, with five or six closed off, and an­other six or seven that we’re well through, and the oth­ers that we haven’t quite started yet.

The di­rec­tion is ab­so­lutely for­wards, with com­plete buy in from the many stake­hold­ers who were there when we de­vised the orig­i­nal strat­egy.

The key has been col­lab­o­ra­tion and ge ng every­one aligned, with pro­duc­ers re­al­is­ing there was much more ben­e­fit if they al­lowed scope and con­sid­er­a­tion to other stake­hold­ers, and also ge ng reg­u­la­tors and con­sent­ing au­thor­i­ties to un­der­stand that there was a gov­ern­ment re­quire­ment and an eco­nomic

im­per­a­tive that there were so­cial and eco­nomic devel­op­ment needs within ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

We ex­cluded, quite specif­i­cally, the anti-salmon farm­ing lobby be­cause we didn’t think they had any­thing to con­tribute to the dis­cus­sion. We would have liked to have in­cluded them but we didn’t. They lacked the will to col­lab­o­rate or align with a wider stake­holder group.

Their be­hav­iour in Scot­land has be­come sim­i­lar to that of ex­trem­ists. They are not open to dis­cus­sion, their views are not open to chal­lenge, some of their be­hav­iour is sub­ver­sive, and some of them are break­ing the law.

And like any ex­trem­ist group, no sen­si­ble, le­git­i­mate stake­holder group could or should en­gage with them. They have no so­cial li­cence and they haven’t won the pub­lic trust. They are fight­ing a war based on lack of facts, on un­truths, not based on science, and they will re­main marginalised and on the ex­treme.

How­ever, that is the sit­u­a­tion and we have to deal with it on an on­go­ing ba­sis. Although their be­hav­iour is be­com­ing ever more rad­i­cal, the in­vi­ta­tion is still ex­tended to them to come in­side the tent and en­gage in con­struc­tive di­a­logue.

We, as a wider in­dus­try, have to think who our stake­hold­ers are it’s our work­force and fam­i­lies, it’s our cus­tomers, it’s our sup­ply chain, it’s our host com­mu­ni­ties, it’s the mu­nic­i­pal, pro­vin­cial, na­tional gov­ern­ments, reg­u­la­tors, other com­peti­tors for our re­sources there are other peo­ple who want that patch of seabed.

And at the bot­tom of the list, and rightly so, we have peo­ple like my­self, the share­hold­ers.

In build­ing so­cial li­cence, it’s very im­por­tant that we en­gage and lis­ten to these stake­hold­ers and that we align our own busi­ness ob­jec­tives with their in­ter­ests.

Our be­hav­iours can change if nec­es­sary. Our ac­tions need to re ect and de­liver on what we say we will do. If we want to start build­ing trust, we must lis­ten to other peo­ple and try and get align­ment, and if we say we’re go­ing to do some­thing, we do it.

Why do we need a so­cial li­cence and pub­lic trust We have a great story to tell and must tell it, but that’s not all we have to do.

You earn so­cial li­cence and win pub­lic trust by un­der­stand­ing and de­liv­er­ing on all stake­holder views, by treat­ing all stake­hold­ers with re­spect, by be­ing trans­par­ent, open and hon­est, by admi ng and learn­ing from mis­takes and do­ing so promptly, by build­ing a sat­is­fied work­force, pu ng back into your host com­mu­nity, and ba­si­cally, do­ing the right thing.

Why is it im­por­tant If, like in New­found­land, we have top level po­lit­i­cal sup­port, we could charge on re­gard­less and for­get ev­ery­body else per­haps. But that’s hardly sus­tain­able and in the long term that will come un­done.

So­cial li­cence and pub­lic trust helps us at­tract and re­tain a mo­ti­vated and proud work­force, and at­tract and re­tain key cus­tomers, and we won’t do that if we fall foul of pub­lic trust.

We can build com­mu­nity sup­port for new de­vel­op­ments, we can win reg­u­la­tory ap­proval for op­er­a­tions, and po­lit­i­cal sup­port through pol­icy mak­ing, and we can de­liver stronger and more sus­tain­able busi­ness per­for­mance.

There is noth­ing about earn­ing so­cial li­cence and win­ning pub­lic trust that is not in the in­ter­ests of build­ing a strong and suc­cess­ful busi­ness.

A good cor­po­rate citi en de­liv­ers for all stake­hold­ers and a good cor­po­rate citi en earns so­cial li­cence and wins pub­lic trust by do­ing things right and do­ing the right thing there is noth­ing com­pli­cated about that.

But we need to not just say that, we need to all un­der­stand it and de­liver on it.

The views ex­pressed are those of Ste­wart Gra­ham in his per­sonal ca­pac­ity and not on be­half of the

“Some of their be­hav­iour is sub­ver­sive, and some of them are break­ing the law”


Left: Ste­wart Gra­ham ad­dresses del­e­gates. Op­po­site: Se­na­tor Fabian Man­ning and Se­na­tor Bett Mar­shall wel­come Gael Force Group to New­found­land.

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