In 2016 Subway, the largest restaurant operator worldwide, committed to sourcing sustainable tuna for their menu’s only seafood sub, the tuna sandwich.
Subway uses only yellowfin tuna and skipjack. They only source their tuna from fisheries whose stock is non-threatened and who follow responsible fishing practices.
To prove their determination to preserve sustainable fish stocks globally and their support for a ban on purchasing fish from illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) boats, Subway became the 40th member of the International Pole ; Line Foundation (IPNLF) in November of 2016.
Subway is a giant in the restaurant industry. They’re the biggest single-chain restaurant brand in the world, with over 44,500 stores in 112 countries. For Subway to solidify a commitment of this gravity is huge, and you can bet that others will follow.
Why Does Subway Only Use Yellowfin and Skipjack?
As previously mentioned, Subway only sources tuna from fisheries whose stock is non-threatened. However, they take that one step further. They also have a global ban on sourcing and selling species of tuna that come from stocks that aren’t healthy.
Examples of tuna species with unhealthy stocks are longtail (Tongol), longfin (Albacore), Pacific bluefin, and Atlantic bigeye tuna. These species have unhealthy stocks in the wild due to overfishing and illegal pirate fishing on IUU boats.
Nets line up for miles on end to capture these fish, and some fishing vessels use technical devices to get the tuna to gather together in packs so they can catch more at one time. Fishing ships capture these adult tuna more quickly than they can repopulate future generations, leading to unhealthy stock.
Yellowfin Tuna and Bycatch
Young Atlantic bigeye and yellowfin tuna often swim in schools with mature skipjack tuna. Due to this combination of species in a school, fishing boats that seek to catch skipjack frequently also catch the young Atlantic bigeye and yellowfin tuna by mistake; this is called bycatch.
Atlantic bigeye is already known to have an unhealthy stock in many parts of the world. However, if policy and enforcement do not monitor and manage this bycatch, yellowfin tuna is at risk of becoming the next tuna species with unhealthy stock.
What Is the International Pole ; Line Foundation?
The International Pole ; Line Foundation (IPNLF) develops, supports, and promotes handline and pole-and-line tuna fisheries worldwide that are environmentally and socially responsible. IPNLF’s goal is to build-up blossoming coastal fisheries.
That support doesn’t stop at the fisheries themselves. The International Pole ; Line Foundation also provides support to the communities, people, businesses, and oceans that are connected with the fisheries and the surrounding areas.
IPNLF is a hub for businesses who value sustainability. Their membership is open to any organization along the supply chain of one-by-one tuna fishing—that’s anyone from the fisheries to the restaurant or grocer. Anyone along the supply chain who wants to use their influence to change policy and consumer attitudes is welcome to join.
Subway Sticks to Their Promise
Many corporations make promises in the United States and stand by them within their North American operations, but then all bets are off internationally. Subway puts their money where their mouth is. Their tuna sandwich is the only seafood sub on their menu in the entire world.
Furthermore, they stand by their global ban on sourcing tuna species with unhealthy stocks or pirate fishing vessels. Sustainably-sourced yellowfin or skipjack tuna is all you will find on the menu no matter which Subway store you visit in any of their 112 operating countries.
Subway’s Commitment to Sustainability
Subway’s commitment to sustainability doesn’t stop at tuna. They have a four-pronged approach to sustainability and an action plan to make strides in each focus area.
Subway strives to serve healthy food that tastes good. In keeping with that goal, none of their standard US menu six-inch sandwiches are more than 650 calories, and at least half are less than 400 calories.
As Subway places more focus on health and wellbeing, they have removed the following from their products:
- Artificial flavors
- Artificial colors
- Chicken with antibiotics
- Trans fat
- Partially hydrogenated oil
- High fructose corn syrup
Subway works with its franchisees to implement energy efficiency, water conservation, and waste reduction in all of their stores.
Lighting and appliances are energy efficient or Energy Star-rated.
In 2006, Subway installed new low-flow water faucets that save approximately 182 million gallons of water per year.
Subway offers recycling and composting to franchisees as part of a goal to reduce landfill waste to almost nothing.
Subway’s world headquarters is stationed in Milford, Connecticut. Mondo Ponds is a surrounding nature preserve that was not in the best shape before Subway took it on as a project and refreshed the area.
Mondo Ponds is home to tons of wildlife and almost 180 different species of birds, so it was very important for Subway to clean up their habitat and make it a place animals could be comfortable and humans could observe them.
Subway works to eradicate modern slavery and child labor in its supply chain by creating lasting business relationships whenever possible and setting expectations of transparency. They make their expectations of no forced labor clear to every vendor they work with.
Subway goes a step further by instituting a vendor agreement that vendors must sign—a contract that includes agreeing to Subway’s code and policy regarding forced labor, child labor, and other workplace-related human rights abuses.
Subway, the Sustainable Choice
As the only United States restaurant currently to be a member of The International Pole ; Line Foundation, Subway is the top choice for a sustainably-sourced tuna meal—albeit a submarine sandwich.
It’s easy to think of Subway and only consider healthy sub sandwiches and footlongs for five dollars, but we do Subway a disservice by not acknowledging the great work they’re doing on the sustainability front.
Subway was boldly the very first American chain restaurant to sign onto a global commitment to seafood sustainability, and with a corporation of their size, that’s a big deal.