Revision of the Group Certification Methodology — Marine Stewardship Council
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Revision of the Group Certification Methodology


The requirements for the Chain of Custody certification of groups were revised in 2009 and published in January 2010. They introduced more precise criteria for groups and Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs). Although this revision contributed largely to increase consistency of auditing practices, in some cases groups have had difficulty implementing these requirements. In the case of well-structured groups the requirements were considered too cumbersome. The revised requirements, in some cases, were considered not relevant and have discouraged businesses operating over multiple sites, which is why the MSC initiated this review.


The MSC is revising the requirements for group certification. The core concept of group certification remains the same, which is to operate a shift in responsibility from an external CAB to the group’s central services (‘group entity’) to demonstrate and ensuring compliance of operating sites (‘sites’) with the requirements of the MSC Chain of Custody Standard.

Although the revision of the methodology does not change this concept, it introduces much more flexibility in achieving it.

The text aims to be pragmatic and easier to implement by a broad range of groups ranging from small groups to very large groups (1000+ sites).

The objective of this consultation was to collect stakeholder feedback to the proposed changes presented in the Group certification methodology, part BB and BC of the Chain of Custody Requirements.

Results of the consultation

The MSC received 83 comments from certification bodies, members of the catering, retail and foodservice industry. Most comments welcome the changes introduced in the revised version of the group certification methodology. However, many points needed clarification on interpretation as the wording used was vague and posed a risk of misinterpretation. The following clauses (amongst others) were improved before being submitted to TAB:

  • Register of sites and policy manual
  • Internal verification systems
  • Certification options
  • Management of non-conformance
  • Management of management reviews

Some of the proposed changes were not taken into account as they felt outside of the scope of revision carried out by the MSC.
Overall, the changes achieved the objective of the revision and the stakeholders in the supply chain are willing to implement them.

Following the consultation, a final draft was presented to the MSC Technical Advisory Board (TAB). The TAB agreed that the direction taken by the MSC whilst revising the requirements. However the TAB required that the Executive adjusted some technical issues that arose with such a large amount of changes. This adjustment will ensure the new group requirements are consistent with the newly published Part A and Part B of the MSC Certification Requirements (e.g. consistency of wording) and requirements are auditable and applicable.

Next steps

Due to the need to amend clauses of proposed Annex BB and BC, the TAB has decided to delay the publication.

The revised group requirements were published on October 24th, 2011. Based on further review and consultation it was agreed to make changes in the following areas:

  • Internal verification systems
  • Certification options
  • Ability to decrease sample size (only based on approval of a variation)
  • Different options for agreement between group entity and sites.

The decision was taken not to change the requirement for the register of sites in order to remain in conformity with ISO 65 and FAO requirements.

Download ‘Requirements for group certification’ (PDF, 146kb).

Further information

Please direct any enquiries to:

Alison Roel
MSC Product Integrity Manager

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