Social responsibility is a key driver for seafood sustainability certification

 A new research report released by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is shining light on the importance of sustainability and social responsibility as drivers for new market access, community engagement and expanding sales pipelines.

The research surveyed 33 stakeholders across seven commercial fisheries in Western Australia and one Commonwealth fishery to understand the core drivers and impacts that MSC certification has provided to them.

Of the 80 drivers surveyed, the top three were:

  1. Validated sustainability credentials and social license (such as being world leaders);
  2. Economic incentives such as new market access; and
  3. The availability of government support equal with improved management outcomes.

More than half of respondents agreed that the benefits of certification outweigh the costs, but 19 out of 33 said this would not be the case if economic benefits alone were considered. For these fisheries the combined social, environmental and institutional advantages offered more in terms of payback, than economic impacts alone.

MSC’s Senior Scientist and co-author, Dr Katie Longo, said for many fisheries the rise in conscious consumerism and global sustainability business efforts are driving factors for seeking MSC certification, while for others MSC certification is an important leverage for market recognition and sales.

“At the other end, some markets are yet to prioritise environmental sustainability as consumers just aren’t demanding it. So, although there are contrasting market experiences – this comes down to the fact each fishery is unique and there are a range of ways to generate value from MSC certification,” Katie said.

Matt Watson, Senior Fisheries Outreach Manager said the findings also highlighted the long-term approach fisheries had taken towards their MSC certification.

“Because of the constantly changing nature of the operating environment, what initially drives a fishery towards MSC may also change as markets diversify and stakeholder values change from year to year. Once certified, the journey doesn’t simply end – fisheries commit to long-term sustainability to safeguard ocean health as well as their own livelihoods.

“MSC certification isn’t an end-game, it is a constant evolving process of improvement for the organisation and the way it engages with its environment and its customers,” Matt added.

Western Australia’s rock lobster fishery gained status as the world’s first MSC-certified fishery and has since been joined by nine other WA fisheries, with octopus and sea cucumber achieving MSC certification in late-2019.

In 2012, the WA Government invested $14.56 million over four years to support commercial fisheries to become MSC certified, which is recognised as the global gold standard.

There are currently, 408 fisheries in 36 countries certified to the MSC Fisheries Standard.

A copy of the report can be viewed at the here.