Like so many sustainability professionals, Angelina Skowronski’s profession trajectory hasn’t been linear.
After a number of years working within the seafood trade, constructing sustainability applications from the bottom up and main Fishpeople Seafood to take care of B Corp standing, Skowronski took a sidestep into the journey sports activities trade earlier than returning to the sector in her present position as industrial supervisor on the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
On this interview, she discusses how she got here to that call, the large problem all of us face in creating extra sustainable seafood methods and her realization that she didn’t must be the neatest individual within the room to make a distinction.
Shannon Houde: So, Angelina, you made a return to working in seafood in 2020 after a little bit day trip of the sector. Inform us about that journey to your present position with the MSC.
Angelina Skowronski: My begin in seafood started unintentionally in Alaska. I moved up there in my mid-20s for journey, driving from Colorado by means of the ALCAN freeway to a small city referred to as Homer. Throughout the first week, I ended up within the fish maintain of a halibut boat and it sort of took off from there. After a few years of working within the seafood trade on each the non-public sector and nonprofit facet, I fully switched to the journey sports activities trade. About two years into journey sports activities, I sat there and realized that promoting surfboards was not what I wished to be doing. Nonetheless, I wasn’t positive precisely what I wished. Do I wish to return into seafood? And in that case, what sort of position do I need? Throughout the job search, it was about determining what talent units I had and the place these talent units would match greatest. Whenever you’re contemplating making a profession transfer, it is onerous to look again at your self and say, “That is what I excel in.” The journey in altering careers is all about determining who you’re, what worth you convey and discovering the nice match that brings out that positivity in you.
Houde: And also you landed such a improbable position on the MSC. Clearly, you introduced this background in seafood, however what different expertise do you suppose actually helped you land this present position?
Skowronski: After all, the seafood background helped me get this place. Nonetheless, a lot of my work is outreach and relationship constructing, subsequently being an extrovert helped, too. I all the time knew I used to be a outgoing and social, however I had not fairly discovered how that really helped me in my work. As well as, in faculty I studied journalism. Finding out that subject, you get lots of follow at asking the proper questions from troublesome individuals who could also be proof against answering. That have allowed me to grow to be assured in speaking to strangers, to strategy somebody and say, “Hello, how’s it going? Can I ask you some questions?”
Houde: So, inform us just a bit bit about MSC, the sustainable seafood sector and the way you see it evolving?
Skowronski: In a nutshell, the MSC units the usual for sustainable fishing. The MSC is a voluntary program, so fisheries that wish to obtain MSC certification are audited towards the MSC requirements by third-party auditors. Along with the fishery commonplace, there’s the chain of custody commonplace which ensures that your MSC-certified product is precisely labeled and might be traced again to a different licensed enterprise, enabling shoppers to make knowledgeable decisions and defending themselves from seafood fraud. Provide chain companies who promote MSC licensed merchandise should even be audited by a third-party auditor towards the chain of custody commonplace.
A good way to push the dialog on sustainability is to ask questions wherever you’re: on the recent fish counter, the restaurant, your native fish monger, wherever you purchase or eat seafood. Do not have a look at one thing and simply take it at face worth.
Nearly all of my work depends on relationships with these provide chain actors. As soon as the seafood hits the dock and is offered, everybody that exchanges the seafood alongside the provision chain is the place the majority of my work lies. The MSC is a nonprofit, however I work together closely within the for-profit world as a result of that’s the place change is carried out. It is a good mélange of understanding what is going on on within the nonprofit sector, on science, new methods in conservation and implementing it within the non-public sector.
Relating to wanting on the large image shifting ahead on ocean conservation and sustainable seafood, on the finish of the day, a central theme in our conversations is local weather change. How is local weather change affecting the fish shares? And the way do we have to adapt the way in which we benchmark sustainable fisheries towards local weather change? It is such an enormous matter and generally is a scary matter to deal with, as a result of it’s not only one coverage change. It is coverage adjustments alongside the complete provide chain. Every thing must be tailored, and it’ll take multilateral cooperation for it to achieve success.
Houde: These of us that eat fish, what ought to we be doing after we go to the grocery retailer aside from searching for the MSC label? What else can we do to be extra accountable shoppers?
Skowronski: A good way to push the dialog on sustainability is to ask questions wherever you’re: on the recent fish counter, the restaurant, your native fish monger, wherever you purchase or eat seafood. Do not have a look at one thing and simply take it at face worth. Ask, the place is that this from? How was it harvested? When was it caught? The extra that retailers and eating places get these questions, the extra these buyer considerations will run up the flagpole to the choice makers. I am the worst on the grocery and even sushi eating places. I’ll sit there on the recent fish counter or with my server and fireplace them with questions.
Along with MSC, there are a few different seafood sustainability labels which might be on the market, too. There’s ASC, which is Aquaculture Stewardship Council. ASC and MSC are sister organizations, and we use the identical chain of custody program for provide chain assurance. ASC is one other certification label to look out for within the grocery retailer for any farmed merchandise similar to Atlantic salmon, shrimp and seaweed. You too can discover Honest Commerce’s label on seafood merchandise. After which there are ranking methods such because the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, which charges fisheries based mostly on a color-coded system, purple for keep away from, yellow for good different, and inexperienced for best option.
It is a large trade, and there is a lot occurring. Generally it may be onerous to make sense of all of it, and at the same time as somebody who has been in it for some time, I typically battle. What I might say, too, is to not fault your self for not absolutely understanding it. There’s rather a lot occurring, however there are sources on the market to assist and to make it simpler so that you can make knowledgeable buying selections.
Houde: And so, working at this intersection between the auditors, the MSC and the corporates, what does your day-to-day seem like?
Skowronski: It is lots of constructing belief and partnerships. Looking for these provide chain actors that wish to decide to sustainability and fostering relationships with them, so that they are on-board long run. Every single day is completely different. Once I labored on the fish dock, I might name it dodging bullets and catching frisbees. Some days I get up to a bunch of emails, and it’s a whole day dodging bullets and placing out fires. Different days are like catching frisbees the place I am engaged on these larger, goal-oriented multidisciplinary initiatives. However for essentially the most half, the majority of my work is exterior outreach making an attempt to get as many stakeholders as attainable to consider sustainability of their enterprise practices. It may be a tough promote, so on daily basis is a problem.
You wish to be the kind of individual that folks wish to work with. In the event that they wish to work with you, they’re going to be extra keen to align along with your idea or your thought.
I am not promoting a financial or bodily merchandise that companions obtain. I am promoting the thought of environmental sustainability, and I am making an attempt to get companions to agree that that is what they should do for the betterment of the trade and their model. It isn’t tangible, and it is typically troublesome for folks to purchase in on one thing that is not tangible, to purchase into this idea of “the better good.”
Houde: And so, what talent are you utilizing? What talent set do you suppose is essentially the most essential when it comes to with the ability to promote this concept?
Skowronski: I might say the 2 most important expertise are humility and character. It is understanding that you just’re in all probability not going to be the neatest individual within the room, and that is OK. It’s not about being the neatest individual within the room, it is about being essentially the most personable. You wish to be the kind of individual that folks wish to work with. In the event that they wish to work with you, they’re going to be extra keen to align along with your idea or your thought. It is all about making an attempt to construct long-term and trusting relationships with folks, fairly than it as solely transactional.
Houde: Lastly, if somebody wished to get into this house, or work in sustainable seafood or sustainable sourcing and meals basically, what are you seeing because the job alternatives rising on this house?
Skowronski: I believe unbiased third-party certifications are actually the place the market push goes relating to client product items. We [consumers] have all discovered that there is greenwashing on the market. Corporations want these credible certification schemes to validate and message to the patron that they’re, in reality, doing what they declare to be doing. Which means these firms want somebody to implement these certifications requirements of their operations. Whether or not it’s MSC, ASC, B Corp, [Forest Stewardship Council], and so on, having information of the way to implement the requirements in an organization’s operations goes to be very invaluable shifting ahead. Whether or not firms rent internally or a guide, this kind of work is in demand.