Greenpeace challenges Costco, protects endangered seafood, 2011


"Greenpeace urges Costco to implement a sustainable seafood policy, offer transparency in its seafood labeling, and stop selling red list seafood – starting immediately with orange roughy and Chilean sea bass. We want to see Costco become a champion for the oceans by supporting positive environmental change." - (2011)

Time period

30 June, 2010 to 24 February, 2011


United States

Location City/State/Province

Issaquah, Washington

Location Description

site of Costco's corporate headquarters, actions and mobilization took place at Costco stores across the United States
Jump to case narrative

Additional methods (Timing Unknown)

Segment Length

Approximately 40 days

Notes on Methods

A major focus of this campaign was flyering and pamphlet distribution communicating Costco's unsustainable seafood policies in and in front of Costco wholesale stores during peak hours. Signed statements of support for the campaign and/or petitions for Costco to change their seafood policies seem to have occurred throughout, though research is unclear.


Greenpeace leadership, including Casson Trennor Oceans Campaign organizer


Not known

External allies

Not known

Involvement of social elites

Not known



Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

None known

Repressive Violence

Not known





Group characterization

Greenpeace activists
Costco customers

Groups in 1st Segment

Greenpeace activists

Groups in 2nd Segment

Costco customers
concerned local activists

Segment Length

Approximately 40 days

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

5 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


2 out of 3 points

Total points

8 out of 10 points

Database Narrative

On 20 June 2010 Greenpeace kicked off
their campaign targeting Costco wholesale super market’s seafood policies by
floating a blimp with the words “Costco: Wholesale Ocean Destruction” over the company’s
corporate headquarters in Issaquah, Washington. 
According to Greenpeace, Costco was selling 15 out of 22 “red-listed”
seafood species, including critically threatened orange roughy and Chilean sea
bass.  Greenpeace demanded that Costco:
immediately stop selling these two fish; implement a policy refusing to sell
any red list seafood; offer transparency with its seafood labeling; and
implement a sustainable seafood policy.

With the launching of the balloon Greenpeace also
launched their online campaign presence via website  This website provided opportunity to sign a
pledge or download an “activist toolkit.” 
The toolkit was intended to provide concerned consumers with messaging
and educational literature to distribute at their local Costco stores during
peak hours.

Documentation of these local flyering and education
actions is hard to come by, but Greenpeace records claim that local actions
proliferated from July 2010 to December 2010. 

Then, in January 2011, a directed phone and letter
writing campaign targeted Costco CEO Jim Sinegal and called for a change in
Costco seafood policy.  According to
Greenpeace records, on one day 12,000 people sent emails asking the company to “protect
the oceans.”  This surge added to the
total online presence of the campaign, and final tallies indicated that almost
100,000 emails were sent to Costco during the course of the campaign.

This added pressure, combined with continued local
flyering actions, seemed to reach Costco’s leadership.  On 24 February 2011 the company announced that
they would:

“Eliminate 12 red list species, which will not
return unless the company can find an MSC-certified option. The species are: Atlantic cod, Atlantic halibut, Chilean sea bass, Greenland halibut, Grouper, Monkfish, Orange roughy, Redfish, Shark, Skates and rays, Swordfish, Bluefin tuna.

-- Pledge to play more of a leadership role within

-- Partner with World Wildlife Fund to examine their
remaining wild-caught species and determine how to best transition to the most
sustainable alternative; and

-- Acknowledge the role that the canned tuna industry plays
within the global sustainable seafood movement and is in the process of
shifting to more sustainable tuna sources in all sectors (fresh, frozen, and

Greenpeace claimed
victory, and called on the activists mobilized against Costco to watch out for
their “Supermarket Scorecard” in order to begin the next targeted campaign. 


Influenced by previous Greenpeace corporate change campaigns mobilized through online consumer awareness and local actions. For example, Greenpeace's 2004-2009 campaign against Kimberly-Clark's wood pulp sourcing practices (1).


2013, Greenpeace USA. "Aerial Message for Costco." Flickr. Greenpeace, 30 June 2010. Web. 03 Apr. 2013. <>.
"Activist Toolkit." OH-NO-COSTCO. Greenpeace, 2011. Web. 02 Apr. 2013. <>.

"The COSTCO Way." OH-NO-COSTCO. Greenpeace, 2011. Web. 02 Apr. 2013. <>.

Frey, Michelle. "In Just One Day 12,000 People Flood Costco CEO's Email Box." Greenpeace. Greenpeace, 7 Jan. 2011. Web. 1 Apr. 2013. <>.

"In the Warehouse." OH-NO-COSTCO. Greenpeace, 2011. Web. 02 Apr. 2013. <>.

"No Longer Wholesale Ocean Destruction." OH-NO-COSTCO. Greenpeace, 2011. Web. 02 Apr. 2013. <>.

"Take the Pledge." OH-NO-COSTCO. Greenpeace, 2011. Web. 02 Apr. 2013. <>.

Trenor, Casson. "Costco Improves Seafood Policies in a Stunning Win for the Oceans." Greenpeace. Greenpeace, 24 Feb. 2011. Web. 1 Apr. 2013. <>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Pauline Blount, 03/04/2013