Fish fight. Or better still, have a conversation.

When I was a kid, fish fingers were our Friday treat. But, if Channel Four’s recent Fish Fight ( is anything to go by, it’s now a moral maze about fish population dynamics, EU quotas, certification, green claims, false green claims and discarded fish.

I think I will avoid Fridays altogether. Or, maybe I will just avoid fish and have a beef curry. Oh no, that means carbon and depleted rainforests! It’s all so complicated.

Campaigns like the Fish Fight reinforce the huge power the media and campaigning celebrities have to focus public attention and shine a light on wicked product stories that put retailers under real pressure. The need for obvious heroes and villains in these stories is worrying.

Sure, for brands to make green claims whilst knowingly telling lies is unforgivable. In those cases, let the villains suffer the punishment of public humiliation. However, for retailers to suffer when making mistakes as part of a serious effort to improve their operations is ultimately counterproductive. It sends the clear message that to try and to fail is a bigger risk to reputation than not to try at all.

I don’t know where the brands featuring in the Fish Fight fall on the spectrum from cynical liars to honest triers. I just hope the programme makers do, since the punishment should match the crime. A media attack on a trier that vindicates inaction from others would be an ecological disgrace.

These programmes reveal the difficulty retailers and policy makers face in navigating the politics behind the rule setting process. In this instance, combined with the short term commercial pressures to keep fishing fleets viable, my fish and chip provider in stock and a long term need for sustainability, we have a perfect storm of complexity.

Responding to zealous attacks involving oversimplified narratives with defensive or knee-jerk responses is not the solution. The real winners won’t be those who dominate the headlines, but those who can host the best conversation with the right people. They need to have the guts, ability and sheer staying power to unpick their supply chain and channel energy and investment towards long term sustainable solutions. B&Q did this with timber and Unilever is doing it with raw materials.

The key is keeping the NGOs on board and the media informed. Only then can we avoid the tit for tat headline grabbing that may deliver a short term contribution to awareness raising, but will ultimately undermine long term investment and the goodwill amongst those who are trying. These are all important lessons to be learned, before attention turns to the next crusade.

Anyway, must go. My line caught fish and locally sourced organic chips cooked in sustainable oil are getting cold.