How the program improvement process works

Every improvement to the MSC program goes through a well-defined process divided into five clear stages: issue, prioritisation, development, selection, and implementation.


Issue: this is the starting-point, when an issue is put forward, either by a stakeholder or from within the MSC itself. In the case of low trophic level fish, for instance, stakeholders and the MSC recognized that requirements were not specific enough to ensure consistent interpretation by certifiers.

Prioritisation: proposed issues go into the Issues Log, where they are reviewed by the MSC Standards team, cross-departmental working groups, and a technical sub-committee of the MSC Senior Management Team. Not every issue can be taken forward – some may not be strategically aligned with our mission, for instance, or may not be considered high priority compared to others. For those that are taken forward, a problem statement is developed and a working group is formed.

Development: project plans for prioritised issues are developed using internal and external expertise. To inform reviews and possible revisions to requirements, and ensure robustness and transparency, extensive consultation with stakeholders is needed. When public consultation is open, anyone who’s interested can have their say about the proposed improvement. We gather in everyone’s comments, review and reflect, and work with colleagues and advisers to develop the work further.

Selection: now the issue usually goes before the MSC Technical Advisory Board (TAB), a panel of independent experts who review the project plan, options and implications, and make recommendations to the Board of Trustees about what should be implemented.

If they think the case is not ready – if, for instance, the science isn’t robust enough or there are more stakeholders whose views need to be taken into account – it goes back into the development stage. If this happens, amendments are made, the improvement can sometimes go back out to consultation and then the revised improvement is resubmitted to the TAB.

For some issues it may be decided that no change is needed, and therefore the implementation stage is never reached.

Implementation: the TAB have accepted the suggested policy improvement and MSC begin to implement the policy changes. In some cases the change is formally made a part of the certification requirements.