Jealsa Rianxeira / Wesea

Jealsa is a leading company in the market of canned fish that operates in Europe, Central and South America. Founded in 1958 in Boiro, Ria de Arousa, over the course of time, they have managed by-products to reduce costs, wastes and pollution.

More recently, under the corporate social responsibility program WeSea (, Jealsa has developed a strategy to implement Circular Economy practices in its plants of fish processing combining energy co-generation and water and waste reuse and recycling. Under the concept of marine biorefinery, the Galician company succeeded in making the most of 100% of the fish that arrives at their facilities. Jealsa’s global value chain offers an ideal platform to understand the geopolitical implications of implementing CE practices in the food processing sector.

Strategic SectorFood Production
Responsible PartnersUVigo
External supporting partnersJealsa
The case
from theory to implementation on the ground

The case will be conducted by the UVIGO team and will shed light on:

a) enablers and barriers to implement CE practices in a highly complex supply chain such as the fishing industry;

b) the emergence of self-regulated management system for circularity;

c) the implications for EU policy in the fishing and canned food industry.

Jealsa is a leading company in the markets of canned fish, meat and pet food.
The corporation announced its innovative circular economy system aiming to valorise 100% by-products and effluents generated in their processing plants.
More recently (August 2021) Jealsa has been accused of dumping untreated contaminated water in a saline estuary (Ria de Arousa).
Distinctive aspects of the case study

One the most distinctive aspect of this case study is that canning industry needs to reutilize the most they can in order to be competitive in the market. At best, each 100 kg of fish that enters in the factory, 50 kg are initially lost (as waste) if they are not reutilize for something else. The black parts of the fish are not useless to eat by humans, the water employed during the cooking process can affect ecosystems, etc. They have a very low margin of benefits, and in order to be more competitive in markets they have been implementing by-products reutilization almost since the beginning of their activity. Thus, the circularity of the company is seen as something inherent to the canning activity, initially driven by the objective of optimizing the use of raw materials and improving competitiveness margins. In fact, when the corporate social responsibility program WeSea started, all these processes were already working, and what they do was to create a more formal structure of all these processes and improving some of the process to reach the current 100% reutilization of the fish inputs, as well as introducing the need of make packages more circular too. What the program achieved was to standardize and bring together under a single umbrella several circular economy activities that the company had been carrying out in an unstructured way for years through its different divisions.

From the external point of view, we also consider that it is important to highlight the location of the factory in Ria de Arousa, which is a common resource for the local community and for other productive sectors (especially for seafood production, fishing and tourism). Therefore, the (positive or negative) impact that the company may has in the Ria can affect local communities and other productive sectors, and hence it will be very interesting to address this common arena.

Another distinctive element regarding circularity is the origin and the destiny of the cans that they use. In Spain, there is only one organization in charge of domestic wastes of packages: ECOEMBES. It is the organization in charge of the Integrated Management System to collect packages. In summary, can producers will pay a tax (to ECOEMBES) for recycling their packages, and later ECOEMBES will collect packages to distribute them among recyclers. The controversial point is that ECOEMBES, which was constituted as a non-profit organization, is composed by the main producers of packages in Spain: BIMBO S.A., Danone S.A., TETRA PAK HISPANIA S.A., NESTLÉ ESPAÑA S.A., etc. This has been also a point of social controversy during the last decades in Spain.

Lastly, fishing sector is also a very important element of this case study since there are a lot of controversial points that could be taken into consideration: the location and the property of fisheries (and the related geopolitical conflicts), the concerns regarding the different fishing gears, the discarding of fish, etc.

Jealsa's approach to CE is aligned with the European Union’s interest in CE. The analysis conducted here allowed us to explore the limitations of the current European Union’s view on CE to increase social and ecological well-being. In this light, increasing employment and guaranteeing jobs in a region seems to be critical when well-being relies very much on income. However, we conclude that for the transition to the CE to integrate social and environmental justice, the European Union needs to move away from its current underlying motivations. If the CE is conceived to maintain business-as-usual (by assuring economic growth while minimizing environmental impacts), it will not be directly focused on social and environmental wellbeing generation. Such social and environmental well-being is expected to emerge from the pursuit of economic growth. However, the kind of social and environmental well-being emerging from such economic growth is reduced to a material understanding of life. The case study also allowed us to unpack the different mechanisms underlying the hegemonic discourse and the current socioeconomic system. This is important because it advances our understanding to promote a just transition to the CE in the context of the European Union. In this regard, we conclude that the transition to the CE will need to challenge current hegemonic narratives, structures and social relations. Indeed, CE literature that assesses drivers and barriers to the CE usually covers political, market, organizational, technological or ecological issues, but it hardly ever challenges the current system and its limitations to increase social and environmental well-being.
Main contact
There will be two main contact persons during the data collection, both of them from the corporative group:– Firstly, Ángeles Claro is the director of the corporate social responsibility program WeSea. She likes working on sustainability issues and she considers that sustainability is necessary to address by the company.–  Secondly, David Alonso is the director of the circular economy axes within the WeSea program, and he is also the director of Valora Marine Ingredients, a company embedded in Jealsa group that is in charge of valorising fish wastes/by-products to reutilize them. His background is economics and management, and he has combined real management and researching.
There will be three main researchers leading the data collection process. Brais Suárez Eiroa ([email protected]) is a post-doc under the JUST2CE project. He is interested in ecological economics and political ecology, and his current research is focused on exploring innovative and transformative paths to build up a just transition to the circular economy.David Soto Oñate ([email protected]), PhD, is a Xunta de Galicia Postdoc researcher at the University of Vigo. He holds a BSc in Business Management and a MSc in Economic Research. He was a Fulbright visiting researcher at the Ostrom Workshop (Indiana University) from 2018 to 2021. His main fields of interest are Institutional Economics and Ecological Economics. He has published on a variety of topics, such as the importance of the coherence between cultural systems and formal economic institutions, the requirements of circular economy principles for environmental sustainability, the foundations of the international liability and compensation regime for oil spill pollution and the institutional issues of EU fisheries management.Antonio Sartal ([email protected]) is currently employed as “Beatriz Galindo” distinguished Researcher by the UVigo. His research agenda focuses on the efficiency of organizational and technological innovation with an increasing emphasis on circular economy and CO2 concerns from a climate change perspective. His main papers on these topics have been published in the Journal of Operations Management, Journal of Manufacturing Systems, Supply chain management-An International Journal and Journal of Cleaner Production, among others. His research findings in the field of engineering earned him recognition as “Young Researcher Award” by the Industrial Engineering and Operations Management (IEOM) Society International in 2019.