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Research shows ‘it pays to be green’ as ecolabel certification raises seafood companies’ share prices

WASHINGTON, DC – Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification to handle and sell certified sustainable seafood boosts companies’ share price and proves that ‘it pays to be green,’ according to new research from the University of Cantabria, Spain, published in Marine Resource Economics.  

This adds to the growing body of evidence that shows that fisheries and companies that embed sustainability into their operations by engaging with the MSC program can benefit directly and tangibly while also benefiting the health of the oceans. 

The research considered the impact of achieving MSC supply chain certification, known as Chain of Custody (CoC), on a company’s share price [1]. CoC ensures that the seafood in products bearing the MSC blue fish label both comes from an MSC certified sustainable fishery and is tracked and separated from non-certified seafood during the journey from fishery through the supply chain [2].

The research looked at whether the benefits of obtaining an ecolabel outweighed the costs and shows that on average a company’s share price increased by 2.64% following a public announcement of MSC certification. Thus, a company with a mean market value of US$875.80 million [3] increased by US$23.12 million just 20 days after certification (equivalent to 60.89% yearly [4]). The rise was higher in companies with lower profitability and sales as investors anticipated that certification could result in an even greater increase in their sales and profits.

Dr José L. Fernández Sánchez, co-author of the paper and economics Professor at the University of Cantabria, Spain said: "The adoption of more sustainable practices in our oceans and seas is sometimes questioned by producers concerned with their companies' profitability. The findings of this research confirm our hypothesis that ‘it pays to be green’ and should help resolve the dichotomy between economy and environment.”

This is the first time that research has analyzed the reaction of the financial markets to the introduction of certification that supports sustainable fishing. 

The authors compared 58 companies that received MSC CoC certification between 2006 and 2019, investigating a window between 0 and 20 days after announcements of certification. On average, there was a significant positive reaction from shareholders. Shareholder positive abnormal returns on stock price (when actual returns are higher than expected) grew from 1.08% in the first week to 2.64% after day 20. 

Seafood is one of the most highly traded commodities in the world, exceeding the combined trade value of sugar, maize, coffee [5]. As of 2018, the world’s top 150 seafood companies (both public and private) had a revenue of roughly US$120 billion [6].

As overfishing continues to rise, with more than a third (34%) of the world’s fish stocks overfished, the study authors emphasized the urgent need for more sustainable fishing practices. The UN has recognized that MSC certified fisheries are part of the solution by “improving sustainable management and harvesting of fish,” and successfully increasing the number of sustainable fish caught over the last decade.

Toby Middleton, Head of Market Operations at the MSC said: "The investment community is increasingly considering environmental, social and governance (ESG) related factors when assessing the value of a company or industry and its potential to deliver future returns. However, finding reliable ways to assess a company’s ESG performance can be a struggle. Impartial, independent and robust certifications such as the MSC CoC and Fisheries Standards can help them identify companies that are genuinely sustainable.” 

In June last year, the MSC released new Guidance for Investors in the seafood industry, to help encourage financiers to make investments that promote returns for both oceans and businesses. 


Notes to editor 

  1. To be sold with the MSC label, seafood from MSC certified fisheries can only be handled, processed, and packaged by organizations with a valid MSC Chain of Custody certificate.  These companies are audited annually by independent certification bodies, to ensure that they comply with the MSC Chain of Custody Standard.
  2. The Chain of Custody Standard requires that MSC certified seafood is only purchased from certified suppliers and is identifiable at all times, segregated from non-MSC certified seafood, and sold with the correct paperwork identifying it as certified. The MSC regularly monitors the supply chain and auditor application of the Standard in order to ensure that the requirements are being followed correctly. Finally, to sell seafood with the MSC ecolabel, an MSC Ecolabel Licence Agreement must be in place ensuring that the label is only used with certified seafood that has been handled by MSC certified suppliers.
  3. The average value of the companies analyzed in the study.
  4. The estimated annualized rate of return. 
  5. Fair Enough? Food Security and the International Trade of Seafood
  6. Business Intelligence Report: The world's 150 largest seafood companies now account for $120 billion in sales


About the Marine Stewardship Council

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an international non-profit organization that sets globally recognized, science-based standards for sustainable fishing and seafood traceability. The MSC ecolabel and certification program recognizes and rewards sustainable fishing practices and is helping create a more sustainable seafood market. It is the only wild-capture fisheries certification and ecolabelling program that meets best practice requirements set by both the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) and ISEAL, the global membership association for sustainability standards. For more information visit or visit our social media pages @MSCbluefish   

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Sustainable Seafood Supports Healthy Oceans