Here are 6 women who, in different ways, are all dedicated to addressing environmental and social issues. These women have worked very hard to get where they are today and inspire us all to keep working on the issues we care about. To these inspiring women in sustainability – we say thank you!
1. Christiana Figueres, previous Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Before taking the position in 2010 Figueres was already dedicated to addressing climate change on an international scale, designing key constructs of agreements and negotiating for progress. She is a native to Costa Rica and has been especially active in moving the region of Latin America forward in regards to climate change. Such a leading presence includes making bold statements, which may come under fire time and again (including 2014 comments recognizing the political problems that hold the U.S. back and giving a pat on the back to China for the political capacity to move forward). Figueres’ commitment to climate change gives us hope that international negotiations will move the world forward.
2. Vandana Shiva, Environmentalist, scientist, activist, author, seed-saver, and my favorite: eco-feminist. A native to India, Shiva founded Navdanya, a biodiversity conservation program and research center that saves and promotes ancient seeds and farming practices. Her pioneer work since the 1980s against genetically modified crops has assisted farmers in self-sufficiency and has become a global voice in sustainable agriculture and farmer’s rights. Acting as an advisor to governments, NGOs, and international organizations, Shiva has traveled the world to spread knowledge about sustainability; the effects of Shiva’s efforts have been substantial and far-reached. Time Magazine called her an “environmental hero” in 2003 and Forbes identified her as one of the Seven Most Powerful Feminists on the Globe in 2010.
3. Mindy Lubber, President and Founding member of the coalition Ceres and Director of their Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR). Lubber not only holds MBA and JD, but has been on the forefront of engaging the private sector to take on climate change. Early on she started a firm offering environmentally friendly mutual funds and has since been helping investors and private companies become more responsible. The INCR has gained the commitment of 120 institutional investors representing more than $15 trillion in assets and is leveraging this influence to integrate climate risk into business strategy and operations of invested companies. Lubber was also a Senior Policy Advisor to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President Clinton.
4. Marina Silva, Brazilian environmentalist and politician who has been recognized by various national, regional, and international awards for her work addressing environmental concerns in Latin America. One such mention is Foreign Policy magazine’s 2010 list of top global thinkers where Silva is noted for taking ‘green’ mainstream. Her work includes orchestrating national deforestation policies and operations, which is especially valuable in Brazil, a country with high rates of deforestation and 60% of the Amazon rainforest. From humble beginnings, Silva has taken on key political positions in Brazil moving from a Senator to Environmental Minister under President Lula, and even seeking the Brazilian presidency. Her commitment to environmental concerns has not wavered in the few party shifts that she has made. Silva has also been vocal for reform in the areas of abortion and corruption.
5. Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International and previously with World Resources Institute. Morgan’s work over the years has helped nonprofit organizations, governments, and private sector companies develop the know-how and tools to be more sustainable. In 2013, Morgan gave a testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Subcommitte on Energy and Power outlining why we must consider the risk of climate change, ‘both on our resources being developed and utilized today, and on our choices for development into the future.’ Morgan has also advised key figures in the German government as well as UK.
6. Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland from 1990 to 1997 who left office to become the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights until 2002. She has since focused her work on women empowerment, forming Realizing Rights: The Ethical Global Initiative to strengthen women’s leadership in 2002 and the Mary Robinson Foundation on Climate Justice in 2010. Along with the Global Gender and Climate Change Alliance, UN Women and the UNFCCC Women and Gender constituency, Mary Robinson was one of the driving forces behind a major decision during the 2012 UN Climate Change Conference in Doha to promote gender balance and women empowerment in climate change negotiations. Both inside and outside negotiation rooms, she gives a face and a voice to people who are disproportionately affected by climate change impacts: the poor and women.
Thank you to these 6 and to the many more women that inspire us to follow our dreams and help make this world a better place.
-Updated December 2016