These female sustainability leaders have a lot to tell us about progress and leadership. Their abilities are often critical for whether the enterprises that they represent sink or swim. Being more like a CEO or sustainability leader in your chosen field might sound like a challenge, but there are latent qualities in all of us that we can harness for a better future. So what is it that separates these sustainable business leaders from the rest? And what can you do to emulate them? Here are three lessons from female sustainability leaders out there changing the World…
Lessons From Female Sustainability Leaders:
Lesson 1: Engage In Relentless Questioning
Since launching Fashion Revolution five years ago, Orsola De Castro has fast become a leading voice in garment supply chain transparency for the global fashion industry. She has inspired millions to ask retailers and online brands, “Who made my clothes?” and provide a voice to garment factory workers across the planet. Orsola teaches us to engage in relentless questioning…
“It isn’t enough just looking for the quality in the products we buy, we must ensure that there is quality in the lives of the people who make them.“Orsola De Castro – Founder and Creative Director at Fashion Revolution
Do you remember what it was like to be a child? Often, you’d sit in the back of the car peppering your parents with an endless list of questions about the world. You didn’t do this out of malice or to annoy them. You just genuinely wanted to learn why the world is the way it is. And you hoped that your parents had the answers.
As you got older, though, you soon realised that there were some lines of questioning where the answers weren’t all that obvious. Typically, fundamental questions were the most intractable.
Sustainability leaders like to do something similar. They want to get down into the nooks and crannies of their businesses so that they can achieve enlightenment. It’s not just about optimising products. It’s about asking basic questions about why you’re creating them in the first place, who is making them? how does it impact the makers lives? and what happens once we’re through with using the products? Endless questioning often leads to profound insight and helps to bring transparency and change.
2. Learn About The World
Helen Clarkson, CEO of The Climate Group leads one of the most influential business-focused climate NGOs in the world. Helen brings a varied set of skills and experiences to her work through her mixed background in humanitarian work, philosophy and accounting. CEOs are rarely specialists. Becoming a top leader, as Norwich University points out, usually has more to do with endlessly learning about the world – including topics that have nothing to do with business. Gaining experience across varied fields can put you in a great position of understanding.
Take for instance the Climate Crisis. Think about the difference between a CEO who recognises the urgency of offering sustainable products because they understand environmental practises versus one that doesn’t. The former CEO could prepare for the coming chaos, while the latter would need to react on the fly, like everyone else. Learning about the world, in general, gives you tremendous insight. You never know when you can deploy your knowledge in a business context. Working out what makes people tick is, of course, important. But so too are other topics you never imagined would have a material impact on your firm.
3. Use Conversations To Drive Your Business
Juliet Davenport founded Good Energy following a particularly disheartening debate in the House of Commons, just before the Labour victory of 1997. The frustration of the debate led her to create positive change in the energy industry.
“I wasn’t really a business person. I was interested in climate because I did atmospheric physics; as I got interested in the science, I could see that something had to happen here.”Juliet Davenport, founder and CEO of Good Energy
Conversations are perhaps the most critical tool in the arsenal of the average CEO. It is an opportunity to gain momentum for change in a way that no corporate bio could. You have the chance to get under a person’s skin and really make them think about the value that you offer.
The job of a CEO isn’t so much to boss everyone around and tell them what to do. That’s rarely how the top dogs see their role. Instead, it’s more cajoling people, looking for ways to get the best out of them, and up their game. Organisations often have vast untapped potential in their midst. If you can find ways to leverage this, you could benefit your company tremendously.