MSC seeks public input on new forced labor policy

Published on
February 13, 2018

The Marine Stewardship Council is seeking public input on a new policy on forced labor and related issues. 

MSC will be asking for stakeholder input on labor practices in on-shore and offshore fisheries and seafood supply chains, and several other issues. The 30-day comment period opens on 15 March. This is the second round of public comments after the MSC board decided to start forming the labor standards in 2016.

“The Marine Stewardship Council condemns of the use of forced labor. We recognize the increasing importance placed on social issues when considering sustainability, and the widespread concern about labor abuses within the global fishing industry and seafood supply chains,” Maggie Dewane, MSC’s U.S. communications manager, told SeafoodSource.

MSC has been consulting on options “to introduce a risk-based approach to mitigate the presence of forced and child labor in MSC-certified fisheries and supply chains,” Dewane said. MSC is collaborating with NGOs, industry leaders, and consulting other social standards to identify requirements that are practical to implement and reliable, she added.

MSC originally proposed that its labor policy would require fisheries and supply chains to submit a self-declaration on 18 different benchmarks in regard to forced and child labor. The proposed policy would have created a process allowing the filing of complaints relation to any of the claims made in the self-declaration, with a labor panel then empowered to determine whether a complaint required further consideration.

In the first round of MSC’s comment period on the proposed standard, open to NGOs and end-of-supply-chain companies, 11 respondents supported the self-declaration as a first step, but they emphasized the need to strengthen its impact through a more comprehensive scope and accompanying complaints process. They also called for MSC to define the timeline for adding auditable requirements to the standard in the future. A further five respondents, among them several NGOs, said they support MSC’s work in this area, but that a self-declaration is not the right approach.

“Their feedback was for greater emphasis on third-party audits, worker participation, and tools such as VMS monitoring and observer coverage,” MSC said.

An additional two respondents – both representatives of the fishing industry– expressed concern that labor issues were outside of MSC’s core mission of environmental sustainability and that fisheries could become subject to vexatious complaints. 

The proposal for fisheries and offshore supply chains will be open for general public consultation from 15 March. The proposal for onshore supply chains will be  open for public consultation in late August 2018.

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