When ‘sustainability’ becomes the norm: Power dynamics in the making of a new eco-label for low-environmental-impact, small-scale fisheries

Mathilde Højrup, Troels Jacob Hegland

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


In 2020, the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food launched a new state-led ecolabelling scheme for fish originating from small-scale, ‘low-environmental-impact’ fisheries; “NaturSkånsom”. The label was introduced to a domestic market where the vast majority of the fish landed by Danish vessels was already certified by the global leader in certification of (wild caught) fish products, Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). MSC’s high market penetration created a situation where especially small-scale fishers felt that MSC certification had developed into a market norm without providing fishers the benefits of demonstrating extraordinarily sustainable practices and thereby gain competitive advantages. Rather, MSC’s market penetration was perceived as undermining efforts to brand and market fish originating from small-scale fisheries as particularly sustainable. This article explores the processes that led up to the NaturSkånsom labeling scheme by applying a ‘power in planning and policy framework’ as an analytical lens. Through the NaturSkånsom process, the article investigates what happens when an ecolabel becomes a market norm, how small-scale fisheries actors who feel disadvantaged by such a development and environmental organizations form alliances, mobilize support and multiple resources to strengthen their positions in the political settings. The examination of this case highlights how stakeholders traditionally thought of as less resourceful can gain political influence. The article offers a glimpse into a possible, emerging future where those perceiving themselves as the most sustainable producers may increasingly view large and dominating ecolabels simultaneously as obstacles and forces for positive change.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104742
JournalMarine Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

The research for this article was funded by the Velux Foundations, Denmark (grant nr. 11040). The foundations had no involvement in the design, collection, analysis or interpretation of the data used


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