Most large consumer-facing operators in the MSC program today are certified under Group CoC. This option allows the organisation’s head office to establish controls over sites, in return for having a certifier audit only a sample of sites. In 2013 a new set of ‘Reduced Risk Group’ requirements were introduced, which streamlined the process for many consumer-facing operators. However, there is still a large administrative effort needed to set up and maintain a Group CoC scheme. Unsurprisingly, the number of consumer-facing operators participating in the MSC program has plateaued, despite many of them already buying certified seafood.

Small independent operators such as fishmongers and single site restaurants have also struggled with CoC requirements. These operators are the focus of a separate project; however, depending on research and stakeholder feedback, it is possible that one overarching model for all consumer-facing operators will be considered.

We identified that the main factors concerning larger scale consumer-facing operators include:

  1. Nature of the MSC representative
  2. Internal audits process
  3. Documentation and record-keeping
  4. Input / output reconciliation
  5. Cost of certification
  6. Indirect costs
  7. Maintaining a site list

Operators selling or serving seafood to the final consumer, such as fishmongers, contract caterers and restaurants, provide high visibility to the MSC ecolabel and therefore are key establishments to help increase consumer awareness and demand for certified sustainable seafood.

However, consumer-facing operators still make up only 7% of global Chain of Custody (CoC) certificates and only 5% of ecolabelled products are menu items (foodservice). The MSC’s Board and Stakeholder Council have confirmed that consumer-facing operators are a priority for the MSC’s mission, and support the MSC exploring alternatives to certification for this sector