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Our theory of change

MSC's theory of change describes how our ecolabelling and certification program contributes to achieving our vision of the world’s oceans teeming with life, and seafood supplies safeguarded for this and future generations.  

Download the full MSC theory of change (PDF, 105kb)

Cycle of change graphic showing how the MSC works with fisheries, suppliers and retailers to encourage a more sustainable seafood market

Contents of the MSC theory of change

  • Introduction 

The MSC operates a certification and ecolabel program based on a scientifically robust standard for assessing whether wild-capture fisheries are ecologically sustainable and well-managed.

  • Creating Market Incentives to Improve the World's Fisheries

The market incentives created by the existence and operation of the MSC program, and its uptake by major global buyers of seafood, are at the core of how the MSC promotes positive change in the world’s fisheries.

  • Defining and Assessing Sustainability – The MSC Standard and Scoring System

Assessing a fishery’s sustainability is complex. But the basic concept is simple – current catches should be at levels that ensure fish populations and the ecosystems on which they depend remain healthy and productive for today’s and future generations’ needs.

  • Assuring Credibility through Independent Assessment and Robust Process

MSC adheres to the most rigorous international standards applicable to certification programs, including the use of third-parties to assess fisheries against the standard and decide whether to award certification.

  • Improving the Performance of Fisheries Globally

A core tenet of economics is the powerful effect of incentives and how they shape behavior. This has proven true in the case of the MSC’s market-based program and global fishing. Many of the fisheries initially undertaking assessment against the MSC standard were well operated and had to make few changes to meet the standard. These pioneers provided the foundation for MSC to become established and the market’s recognition of these fisheries has provided the necessary incentives for other fisheries to follow.

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