Skoll Foundation


Marine Stewardship Council

Skoll Awardee(s): Rupert Howes
Award Year: 2007
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Sustainable Markets

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Responsible Supply Chains, Standards

Seventy to eighty percent of the world’s marine fishery resources are threatened by overfishing and in danger of collapse.

The social entrepreneur: Like the Forest Stewardship Council after which it was modeled, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) promotes the long-term viability of a global resource through identification and certification of sustainably managed product – in this case, wild-harvested fish. Originally launched as a partnership of Unilever and the World Wide Fund for Nature, MSC struggled in its early years to build market share and convince major buyers and fisheries that its label could add significant value. Rupert Howes, who became MSC’s chief executive officer in 2004, set out to change that. Passionate about nature, trained as an economist, he had worked with environmental organizations, written a book on motivating industries to improve environmental performance, and championed corporate responsibility. He brought to MSC not only economic training, but also pragmatism and a commitment to understanding the market forces that might drive greater uptake of the model. At the time of the Skoll Award, MSC’s credible, and science-based environmental principles to assess whether a wild-capture fishery is well managed and sustainable were the only internationally recognized standard of this type. Some 22 fisheries had been certified, and 500 MSC-labeled products were available in 26 countries.


“We have to work with the grain of the market if we are to shift our economic system to a more sustainable footing. Markets are not perfect, but they can work better.”

Impact since joining the portfolio in 2007:

  • Number of certified fisheries has increased tenfold, to 218. This represents 7 million metric tons of seafood, or 8 percent of the global supply of wild-caught fish.
  • More than 140 fisheries are engaged with MSC in pre-assessment or conducting assessments.
  • McDonald’s introduced the MSC label on 100 million filet-o-fish sandwiches in Europe in 2011. In 2013, McDonald’s became the first national restaurant chain in the US to commit to MSC-labeled products for all fish products.




© 2015 Skoll Foundation.