Ben Coniff of Luke's Lobster joins the Bsuite podcast with Anne Richardson

Episode 3: Seafood & Sustainability with Ben Conniff of Luke’s Lobster

Tune in to Episode 3 of the BSuite podcast, in which Anne Richardson interviews Ben Conniff, Chief Innovation Officer of Luke’s Lobster, a sustainable seafood purveyor and fellow B Corp. During the episode, Ben talks about what it means to be a B Corp, educating consumers’ purchase decisions, and how Luke’s Lobster is trying to change the seafood industry landscape so customers can enjoy lobsters for years to come. When Ben joined Luke’s Lobster in 2009, he started out as the general manager of Luke’s first lobster shack in Manhattan. Throughout the brand’s evolution into a global leader in seafood sustainability, Ben has worked behind the scenes innovating the business and giving back to the lobster fishing community.

We don't expect consumers to look for perfection in anything they buy, but we do hope that consumers start rewarding people who are transparent and who are actively working to improve their [environmental and social] impacts.

Key Takeaways

From Modest Roots to a Leader in Seafood Sustainability

The first Luke’s Lobster shack was a “200 square foot closet,” as Ben describes it, in the East Village of Manhattan. The brand’s early customers were thrilled to have access to authentic Maine lobster in New York City, and authenticity has remained essential to the Luke’s Lobster brand ever since. As the company has grown into a premier destination for Maine lobster and opened more locations worldwide, Ben’s role evolved from General Manager to Chief Innovation Officer. Since 2020, Ben has focused on Luke’s Lobsters’ social and environmental sustainability, diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) endeavors, B Corp certification, and, of course, culinary innovation.

B Corp Certification and Recertification for Luke’s Lobster

Ben shares that Luke’s Lobster’s initial pursuit of B Corp certification pushed the team to codify their existing sustainable practices. It also prompted them to consider their carbon footprint for the first time, and in three short years, they moved from having little awareness of their impact on the environment to conducting a full three-scope assessment. When Luke’s Lobster applied for B Corp recertification, their business was moved into a new industry category with new standards. Ben remains cautiously optimistic that B Corp’s evolving standards for seafood companies are moving in the right direction and that continued conversations will encourage more seafood purveyors to pursue certification. 

Speaking of recertification, in 2024, Richardson Media Group will begin the process of recertifying as a B Corporation. While the application is demanding, the process is also a labor of love that reflects our commitment to doing business for good.

Consumer Education about Sustainably Caught Seafood

Much of Ben’s responsibility as an innovator for Luke’s Lobster comes down to consumer education. The more transparent Luke’s Lobster can be about their sustainable practices and how those actions are demonstrated in each plate of seafood they serve, the more they can empower consumers to evaluate the seafood companies they purchase from. “Our goal is to be so transparent about sustainability that folks leave Luke’s and the next restaurant they go to, or the next product they buy at the supermarket, they start asking the kind of questions that we try to answer without them asking:  Where did this fish come from? What were the catch methods or the farming methods?” Anne echoes Ben’s sentiment about consumer education in the realm of digital marketing. She explains how educating consumers about sustainable marketing practices puts healthy pressure on other businesses across the advertising industry to evaluate their impact and try to do better.

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats: Sustainability Across the Industry

Ben’s investment in sustainable fishing doesn’t end with Luke’s Lobster; he also advocates for innovations that boost the accessibility of the entire seafood industry. Luke’s Lobster has partnered with the Island Institute, a Maine nonprofit, in the Lift All Boats Project which provides aspiring fishermen from historically disadvantaged groups with mentorship, training, equipment, and licenses typically available only to industry insiders. Ben also facilitates meetings between lobstermen and electric boat makers and serves on the boards of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative and the Maine Business Immigration Coalition. 

The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative pushes for sustainability in the lobster industry by marketing alternative use models for underappreciated pieces of processed lobsters to minimize waste. For example, small pieces of lobster meat make for great lobster ravioli in restaurants and proteins from lobster shells are used in a line of skincare products, called Marin Skincare. Ben jokes, “We know how hard it is to get a lobster out of the ocean, so to let any of that go to waste is a real shame.” The Maine Business Immigration Coalition provides resources and support to immigrants living in Maine, many of whom work in the lobster industry and without whom the lobster industry certainly wouldn’t have as bright a future.