Net-Works (TM)

Full Solution
Discarded nets collected by community members in the Philippines.
Interface Inc

Net-Works is an award-winning initiative that redesigns global supply chains to reduce marine plastic, replenish declining fish stocks and improve the socio-ecological resilience of marginalised coastal communities living in biodiversity hotspots of developing countries. We connect these communities to global brands via a fair and inclusive buisness model that delivers "less plastic, more fish". One example is the esatblishment of a community-based supply chain for discarded fishing nets in the Philippines and Cameroon that prevents these nets from becoming ghost nets. Nets are recycled into nylon yarn that is used to create beautiful high design carpet tiles by Interface Inc. Net-Works was co-created by conservation charity the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and carpet-tile manufacturer Interface Inc.

Last update: 30 Sep 2020
Challenges addressed
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Lack of access to long-term funding
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
  1. The problem of discarded fishing nets in some of the poorest coastal communities, which cause marine pollution and harm aquatic life, due to the lack of a sustainable means of disposal.
  2. Raising awareness and changing people’s behaviour so that they stop throwing used nets away in the first place.
  3. Lack of access to financial services, which makes it hard for people to save money or access loans.
  4. Declining fish stocks, an over-reliance on fishing as a source of income and the need to diversify livelihoods.
Scale of implementation
Coral reef
Pool, lake, pond
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Health and human wellbeing
Sustainable livelihoods
Indigenous people
Local actors
Outreach & communications
Fisheries and aquaculture
Marine litter
West and Central Africa
Southeast Asia
Summary of the process

Each of these building blocks is interdependent. Net-Works would not have been possible without the right partnership - the perfect blend of need, expertise, and mindset that enabled two unlikely collaborators, ZSL and Interface, to pioneer such an innovative programme. The community banks are the social infrastructure at the heart of Net-Works - they bring the community together and are the mechanism for community organising and decision making. The income from net sales can be saved via the community banks, and the environment funds are set up by community bank members to fund local conservation projects. Finally, the successful engagement of the local communities relies on close working with local partners who provide on-the-ground knowledge and expertise.

Building Blocks
Inclusive business model linked to conservation

Applying the principles of fair trade and inclusive business, we create efficient community-based supply chains for raw materials (plastics and seaweed carrageenan) that are available in abundance. We link these raw materials to conservation actions that reduce plastic pollution and restore coastal ecosystems. Increasing incomes from these raw materials reduces dependence on fishing – enabling communities to set aside larger no-take zones to replenish fish stocks.

Enabling factors

A long-standing personal relationship between two of the founding members of Net-Works, Dr. Nick Hill (ZSL) and Miriam Turner (former Interface AVP of Co-Innovation), provided the right foundation to forge a strong collaboration. A shared vision and the setting of clearly defined goals and milestones continues to help strengthen the team. 

Lesson learned

It is important that all partners involved in the project have a shared vision of what they want to achieve and clear agreement on goals and milestones. Regular, ongoing communication between the partners is key.

Selling raw materials into a global supply chain

We sell the raw materials into global supply chains, giving international brands opportunities to source premium products with positive social and environmental stories, giving fishing communities a more transparent and dependable price, and providing sustainable funding sources for local conservation and development actions. This ensures the sustainability of larger, more effective multi-habitat marine protected areas, and quality controls and standards can be maintained independent of external donors.

Enabling factors

VSLAs are a robust, globally-proven model, led by the communities themselves. The Net-Works team provides training and mentoring to communities on how to set up and run a VSLA. They also provide financial education to VSLA members.

Lesson learned

VSLAs operate most effectively by adhering to the proven methodology so it is important to follow the guidelines closely and share learnings between communities. 

Community bank infrastructure

To manage local supply chains, we set up community banks, bringing communities together in informal cooperatives and providing much needed access to financial services. These community banks are the ‘social glue’ at the heart of Net-Works, enabling members to invest in their sustainable livelihoods, building a Net-Works’ conservation constituency.

Enabling factors

The supplemental income earned from net sales is an effective incentive for getting local people involved in Net-Works, along with other non-financial incentives such as cleaner beaches and coastlines and a healthier marine environment. It also enables them to top up declining earnings from fishing, and to build up some savings via the community banks.

Lesson learned

It is Important to use a mix of financial and non-financial incentives when trying to engage local communities and encourage long-term behaviour change.

Environment funds

Community bank members regularly contribute a small amount of money from net sales into a dedicated Environment Fund, which is used to help finance local conservation projects such as community-managed marine protection. The money gathered via the fund can be leveraged to secure additional funding from local government or NGOs.

Enabling factors

The Net-Works team initially piloted the concept of an Environment Fund with a small number of communities. When it proved successful, it was rolled out more widely to other communities, along with advice and support on how to manage it effectively. Communities feel motivated by the sense of ownership and empowerment that comes from raising money themselves rather than relying on external funding. 

Lesson learned

In some cases, Environment Funds can be leveraged even further through multiple communities working together on the use of the funds. It’s important to have team members on the ground who can facilitate this kind of cooperation between communities.

Partnerships and cross-sector collaboration

Redesigning global supply chains and delivering an inclusive business model linked to conservation requires a diverse set of expertise that requires collaboration. Net-Works was co-created by conservation charity ZSL and carpet-tile manufacturer Interface Inc. Strong partnerships with local communities and local partner organisations are vital to Net-Works’ success. Communities need to feel motivated to get involved and working with local partners who understand the local context and customs ensures that outreach and engagement is done in the right way.

Enabling factors

ZSL had worked in the Philippines for many years and had already established relationships with local organisations and local communities. The success of the initial Net-Works pilot project, which involved a small number of communities, helped to motivate other communities to get involved.

Lesson learned

Forging good relationships with local partners and with leaders from local communities is essential when trying to build trust and encourage communities to embrace a new initiative like Net-Works. 


Since 2012, over 167 metric tons of waste nets have been collected through Net-Works. At least 1,500 families have been given access to finance through the community banks that Net-Works sets up, and 62,000 people have benefitted from a healthier environment. To date, we have environmental funds established in 55 community banks, with 1,217 members contributing approximately $2,925 of savings directly towards local conservation actions and marine management. Through Net-Works we are protecting 1,112.23 ha of aquatic habitat across 8 community based protected areas.


The main beneficiaries are local communities - fishers and their families from 26 communities in the Philippines and 9 communities in Cameroon. Others include Aquafil (Yarn Producer), Interface (Carpet Tile Manufacturer), ZSL (Conservation Charity).

Sustainable Development Goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Zoological Society of London
Community members weighing nets in Cameroon.
Zoological Society of London

Mia Apurado is the Business Operations Manager for Net-Works in the Philippines. She has seen first hand how fishing communities’ attitudes and behaviours around discarding nets have changed as a result of Net-Works: “They realise that instead of just throwing their nets in the ocean or anywhere it is something that they can earn from. Their values and attitudes have actually changed.” Arcelene Baculao Murillo, a member of the community and the book keeper for her local community bank says: “There is much less garbage because the community members have been participating, cooperating, and helping to remove the nets and garbage.”


Fanny Djomkam is the community coordinator for Net-Works in the Lake Ossa region of Cameroon. Her role involves working with communities to set up locally managed community banks and net collection activities. “Net-Works has benefitted local communities in many ways, but for me the biggest benefit has been the community banks or VSLAs as we call them locally. VSLAs have really helped to strengthen fisher communities. They provide a simple and effective mechanism that enables fishermen to organise themselves and manage their savings in a way that is clear and accountable. Where there may have been conflicts in the past, the VSLAs have helped communities come together in a spirit of cooperation. Fishermen committees are now working with the local administration to co-manage the lake and ensure the code of fishing is enforced. It’s brilliant to see them feeling so empowered.”

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