Frequently asked questions

Questions

What will the consultation process entail?

How can stakeholders get involved?

 

What is being proposed by the MSC? And what does it mean to fisheries and supply chain organisations in the MSC program?

 Which other schemes and organisations will you be consulting?

Will the consultation cover both supply chain and fishing organisations?

You say that the proposals should be open to delivery by other standard setting organisations. What does this mean?

 

Is MSC becoming a social standard?

Why introduce requirements for labour practices now?

Does this mean that the requirements you have in place are currently not sufficient?

Have any MSC certified organisations been prosecuted for forced labour violations, and had their MSC certificate revoked, since 2014?

 

What happens when a fishery or a supply chain company has been successfully prosecuted for forced labour violations, will they be ineligible for MSC certification?

I thought that MSC was established as an environmental sustainability standard – why are you now addressing labour considerations?

What risk-based approach are you using?

Why only forced and child labour – why aren’t we considering more issues?

 

Is this going into the MSC Standard?

Will my auditor be doing a social audit or auditing the content of the self-declaration?

Answers

What will the consultation process entail?

Stakeholder participation opportunities include online consultations and surveys, public webinars, consultation workshops and meetings.

Details of all stakeholder consultations can be found at improvements.msc.org. Anyone wishing to register an interest in these consultations should email standards@msc.org

How can stakeholders get involved?

If you would like to give your opinion of the MSC labour proposals, you can read the consultation document at improvements.msc.org. If you have any questions about the consultation, email .

Your feedback is sent to MSC project leads via survey monkey and is considered by MSC staff and the MSC Technical Advisory Board. A report of all the feedback we receive on the topic will be emailed to you after the consultation has closed and posted on the MSC improvements website.

What is being proposed by the MSC? And what does it mean to fisheries and supply chain organisations in the MSC program?

In recognition of widespread concern about labour abuses in the global seafood supply chain, the MSC is working to extend its existing provisions on forced labour in fisheries and supply chain companies that hold MSC certificates.

There are two separate proposals made for fisheries and off-shore operations, and on-shore supply chains.

New fisheries and at-sea supply chain requirements

There is currently no universally applicable ‘norm’ or standard for at-sea labour practices. Therefore, the MSC Board has approved two phases for the development of new labour requirements for fisheries and off-shore supply chains (such as factory ships). Phase I: A first step (to be implemented in 2018):

As part of the MSC assessment process fisheries and at-sea supply chains will be required to provide a self-disclosure document that reports on measures, policies and practices in place to ensure absence of forced and child labour.

Fisheries that are currently certified will be required to provide a self-disclosure form during their next surveillance audit, at or after one year of the release of the new requirements.

The self- disclosure form will be made public and posted within or alongside the full assessment or surveillance report. Phase II: Strengthening the requirements (Proposed for implementation in 2020): This second phase will see high risk fisheries and at-sea supply chain entities being required to undertake an audit against a third-party labour standard.

Defining ‘high-risk’ fisheries and at-sea supply chain entities is part of the Phase II workplan. The MSC is closely monitoring the progress of labour standards such as the Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS) and FairTrade USA. Currently, these schemes are not applicable internationally, so would not be appropriate across all MSC certified fisheries.

Therefore, when the MSC fisheries assessment process is updated in 2020 it will require all high-risk fisheries and off-shore supply chain entities to undertake RFS certification or certification to another standard that may be established at that time and is recognised by the MSC as providing a robust assessment of labour practices at sea.

New on-shore supply chain requirements

Following extensive stakeholder consultation, the MSC Executive Committee has selected a proposed solution for providing greater assurance that forced and child labour are not taking place in supply chain companies that hold MSC certificates.

This risk-based approach will require certificate holders in high-risk countries who are engaged in certain activities to undergo an on-site audit against a recognised third-party labour program.

The proposed programs are SAI’s (Social Accountability International) SA8000, BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) or SEDEX SMETA (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (SEDEX) Members’ Ethical Trade Audit). The MSC is also looking into a benchmarking process for recognising other labour programs in the future.

Certificate holders identified as ‘high risk’ will be required to show evidence that they have passed/achieved a minimum score on the forced and child labour elements of a recognised labour program in order to remain part of the MSC program.

Which other schemes and organisations will you be consulting?

For fisheries: We intend to learn from other schemes and initiatives such as the Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS), developed by the UK Seafish Authority, and Fair Trade USA’s social standard for small scale fisheries operating close to shore.

For supply chains: We will be looking to standards and initiatives that are currently in use in seafood supply chains, such as SA8000, SEDEX SMETA, Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI), and others.

We also hope to hear from other organisations and individuals with useful insight on how to address the challenges of ensuring fair labour practices at sea.

Will the consultation cover both supply chain and fishing organisations?

Yes.

You say that the proposals should be open to delivery by other standard setting organisations. What does this mean?

It’s too early to say exactly at this stage what this might look like. We want to work with, and learn from, other initiatives rather than duplicate efforts.

For this reason, we are proposing to look to the efforts of fisheries and supply chain companies that are already certified against a labour standard, and to defer to an audit against a third-party labour standard if substantiated complaints (of existence of forced or child labour in a certified or applicant entity) are received.    

We would require that the standards being applied meet an agreed MSC performance level. We also recognise that there may be some issues around availability (particularly for fisheries), scope of certification, as well as audit rigour. We will be exploring these themes through consultation.

Is MSC becoming a social standard?

No – this project is not designed to solve labour issues in fisheries and seafood supply chains, but to reduce reputational risk, offer some assurance to the public and most importantly, give the MSC a way to disassociate itself from entities with forced labour violations.

Why introduce requirements for labour practices now? 

There is deep and widespread concern about labour abuses within the global fishing industry and supply chain. We are responding to these concerns.

Does this mean that the requirements you have in place are currently not sufficient?

In 2014, the MSC Board committed to prohibit organisations that have been prosecuted for forced labour violations in the past two years from achieving MSC certification. Whilst this provides some degree of reassurance, it requires organisations to be prosecuted before they become illegible for MSC certification. The proposed labour requirements will provide a means for MSC to disassociate the program from an entity that is found to have forced and/or child labour in its operations.

Have any MSC certified organisations been prosecuted for forced labour violations, and had their MSC certificate revoked, since 2014?

Not to our knowledge.

What happens when a fishery or a supply chain company has been successfully prosecuted for forced labour violations, will they be ineligible for MSC certification?

Yes. Currently an entity (company/fishery) can be removed from a certificate if that entity is found to have been successfully prosecuted for violations of laws on forced labour in the last two years. To ensure that a certification entity remains eligible for MSC certification with respect for forced labour violations, companies, fishery client group members and their subcontracted parties should ensure compliance with national and international laws on forced labour and follow relevant guidance where available.

I thought that MSC was established as an environmental sustainability standard – why are you now addressing labour considerations?

In 1997, when the MSC was established, environmental sustainability was the primary issue of concern. As a result, the MSC has been focused on driving ecological sustainability within wild fisheries. However, there is now increasing concern about labour abuses within the global fishing industry and supply chain, with some organisations widening the definition of sustainable to include social dynamics. We are therefore responding to these shifting perceptions. We believe that this is important for the MSC to evolve to remain relevant and up to date.

What risk-based approach are you using?

We are not sure yet. The MSC has put forward a couple ideas (such as the Traffic In Persons report) but will be working on this over the coming months and will present proposals for consultation in August 2017.

Why only forced and child labour – why aren’t we considering more issues?

These are very complex issues, especially for fisheries. The fishing industry is unique in its labour conditions – for example, seasonal fisheries typically have long working hours. It is also a new area of wide public scrutiny with currently limited internationally applicable solutions.

As this is a new area for MSC, we don’t want to adopt requirements that we cannot implement. We will support existing initiatives addressing these issues and work to develop solutions where these are not appropriate.

MSC is committed to addressing stakeholder concerns with serious labour abuses in the fishing industry and our policy may develop as we and the industry learns how to best address these complex issues.

Is this going into the MSC Standard?

No. It will be part of the Standard’s scope which determines if a fishery or supply chain company is eligible for certification, rather than an assessed part of the standard. There will be no auditable requirements added into the Fishery or CoC Standard at this time.

Will my auditor be doing a social audit or auditing the content of the self-declaration?

No. they will check the form is completed, and that you have available any required supporting documentation.

In recognition of widespread concern about labour abuses in the global seafood supply chain, the MSC is working to extend its existing provisions on forced labour in fisheries and supply chain companies that hold MSC certificates.

There are two separate proposals made for fisheries and off-shore operations, and on-shore supply chains.

· New fisheries and off-shore supply chain requirements

There is currently no universally applicable ‘norm’ or standard for at-sea labour practices. Therefore, the MSC Board has approved two phases for the development of new labour requirements for fisheries and off-shore supply chains (such as factory ships). Phase I: A first step (to be implemented in 2018):

As part of the MSC assessment process fisheries and off-shore supply chains will be required to provide a self-disclosure document that reports on measures, policies and practices in place to ensure absence of forced and child labour.

Fisheries that are currently certified will be required to provide a self-disclosure form during their next surveillance audit, at or after one year of the release of the new requirements.

The self- disclosure form will be made public and posted within or alongside the full assessment or surveillance report. Phase II: Strengthening the requirements (Proposed for implementation in 2020): This second phase will see high risk fisheries and off-shore supply chain entities being required to undertake an audit against a third-party labour standard.

Defining ‘high-risk’ fisheries and off-shore supply chain entities is part of the Phase II workplan. The MSC is closely monitoring the progress of labour standards such as the Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS) and FairTrade USA. Currently, these schemes are not applicable internationally, so would not be appropriate across all MSC certified fisheries.

Therefore, when the MSC fisheries assessment process is updated in 2020 it will require all high-risk fisheries and off-shore supply chain entities to undertake RFS certification or certification to another standard that may be established at that time and is recognised by the MSC as providing a robust assessment of labour practices at sea.

· New on-shore supply chain requirements

Following extensive stakeholder consultation, the MSC Executive Committee has selected a proposed solution for providing greater assurance that forced and child labour are not taking place in supply chain companies that hold MSC certificates.

This risk-based approach will require certificate holders in high-risk countries who are engaged in certain activities to undergo an on-site audit against a recognised third-party labour program.

The proposed programs are SAI’s (Social Accountability International) SA8000, BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) or SEDEX SMETA (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (SEDEX) Members’ Ethical Trade Audit). The MSC is also looking into a benchmarking process for recognising other labour programs in the future.

Certificate holders identified as ‘high risk’ will be required to show evidence that they have passed/achieved a minimum score on the forced and child labour elements of a recognised labour program in order to remain part of the MSC program.