Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Growing Influence of Eco-certification

Here is a link to an interesting interview of the CEO of MSC, Robert Howes, by Bob Searle of The Bridgespan Group.  Although it is more than a year old, it gives a number of insights into the MSC psyche.

One concern may be Howes' view that "From the consumer’s perspective, they don’t need to know this amount of detail [the complexities of the MSC standard and how it is applied to determine whether or not a fishery is sustainable]. They need to see the eco label and know that that fishery has been through an incredibly rigorous, often lengthy certification and assessment process." This sounds a little paternalistic.  Don't worry your pretty little heads, just trust us, we have everything under control.  Surely it is the right of the public to question and challenge decisions that a third party is making regarding whether or not a fishery accessing a public resource really is sustainable?


  1. Yes, you do get a bit of sense of superiority from the Howes interview. He also suggests that "It’s only through a third-party process like the MSC that you create the structures and opportunities for broader stakeholder engagement and dialog." Perhaps I need to learn more about the public role as stakeholder in the process, but the MSC certification process seems to be somewhat behind closed doors. I know that there is an objection process, but is it feasible for a member of the public to engage in this? How costly is it? How successful can one be in getting MSC to reconsider it's determination of "sustainability" late in the process?

  2. As our organization noted in our recent comments on some proposed MSC certifications, the people who examine the fishery in question, a "third-party" certifier, are dismissive not just of NGO objections, but often of the scientists who peer-review their conclusions as well. It may actually be that they would value objections from the general public more - if they don't trust the MSC label, fisheries won't be interested in paying for certification.

    As for the objection process, my understanding is that it is typically done by stakeholders who have previously submitted comments on the certification, and is based on the budget of the group lodging the objection.