Press Release

Earth Island Institute Executive Director to Step Down

Founding member of Earth Island Institute to relinquish top role but remain within organization

Berkeley, CA (November 8, 2022) — David Phillips, Earth Island Institute’s co-founding executive director, announced to staff today that he will be stepping down from his role as executive director once a successor is named.

Earth Island Institute, a dynamic hub for grassroots environmental projects, was founded in 1982 by legendary activist David Brower. Brower’s colleagues, Phillips and John Knox, who retired in 2020, became the organization’s founding co-executive directors.

“Dave has been an incredibly steady and effective leader for the organization,” said Josh Floum, president of Earth Island’s board of directors. “He leaves Earth Island stronger than it has ever been. We have more cutting-edge projects than ever before, and our financial condition is more robust than at any time in the organization’s forty-year history.”

Phillips was instrumental in the development of Earth Island’s role as a fiscal sponsor for small groups doing big work on conservation, wildlife protection, Indigenous rights, climate-change solutions, and plastic pollution. In addition, he was involved in the creation of the organization’s award-winning journal, a national youth environment prize, and a legal advocacy program. Phillips is also one of the founding directors of the David Brower Center, an office and event space for the environmental movement in Berkeley, California.

Concurrent to his position as executive director of Earth Island Institute, Phillips also led one of Earth Island’s flagship projects, the International Marine Mammal Project, where he spearheaded several successful environmental campaigns, including the dolphin-safe tuna campaign, resulting in the protection of tens of thousands of dolphins annually, and the rescue and release of Keiko, the orca featured in the popular Free Willy film. Phillips will continue to run the International Marine Mammal Project after stepping down as executive director of Earth Island.

In his announcement to staff and projects, Phillips said: “It has been a big honor for me to serve in my role since Earth Island’s inception, and it has been an amazing journey. I’m very proud of Earth Island. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with all of you and witnessing the great accomplishments that have emerged from our projects, core programs, and support and administrative teams in the fight for nature and environmental justice.”

As part of its oversight role, the Earth Island Board of Directors will conduct the search for a new executive director, supported by executive search firm Cook Silverman.


Contact: Communications Director Sharon Donovan, (510) 859-9161