Women’s history month highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary...
Celebrating Women’s History Month: The Role of Women in Sustainability and Business
Women’s history month highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary societies, celebrated in March by many countries. In our last blog we talked about the role of women in spearheading the sustainability movement across the world. From activism and politics to consumption, women are at the forefront of these sustainable choices and changes in our society.
This week we are going to look at the role women have and continue to play in bringing sustainability into the business sphere. From entrepreneurship to leading corporations women continue to dominate the sustainability conversation, being seen as stewards of the land in all walks of life. According to a 2020 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report “women entrepreneurs are leading the sustainability charge in business and investing”. They found that 54% of women entrepreneurs claimed that, beyond financial return, reducing their carbon footprint was their top priority. In contrast, only 41% of male entrepreneurs agreed. The women we interviewed for this blog series agree, with carbon footprint, along with ethical and health concerns, being their top priorities.
When we look to the corporate world, women continue to take the lead in sustainable action. Chief Sustainability Officer is the only corporate position held by majority women in the US at 54%(Sustainability Recruiting ESG Recruiting, 2021). Women have proven to be more competent and successful in these roles, and are more likely to seek a career in sustainability than their male counterparts. This role, and views that women are better suited than men to roles in sustainability and stewardship, have created a space for women in corporate leadership that did not exist previously.
There is also proof of the efficacy of women in these sustainability leadership roles. A study at the University of Adelaide found that for every woman appointed to a corporate board the chance of being used over environmental violations decreased 1.5% (Certified Sustainable, 2020). Another study by the University of Hong Kong found that businesses led by female CEOs pollute less, receive less environmental penalties, and have a higher awareness of environmental protection (Certified Sustainable, 2020).
To celebrate the important role of women in leading our business landscape towards a more sustainable future we interviewed female entrepreneurs from Sustainable Life App. Alisha of Chickpeace Zero Waste Refillery and Lyndsay of Tightrope Winery told us about their experiences as female entrepreneurs running sustainable businesses and shared some advice for our readers!
Chickpeace Zero Waste Refillery
Alisha Heidy completed a postgraduate study in sustainability planning and has always been passionate about empowering others to create a better planet for us to live on. She saw that as waste management issues around the world increased the health of our planet decreased. In June of 2020 she opened a zero waste refillery in hery community of Kelowna, British Columbia. Chickpeace refillery now provides package free food options and ethically produced products to her community, with goals for a zero waste corporation and to help other organizations reduce their waste.
We asked Alisha what jump started her interest in sustainability and what inspired her to open her own sustainable business?
“Travelling around the world made me see how bad the garbage problem actually was. When I came back to Canada I knew I wanted to focus my graduate studies on how to build sustainable communities. Opening Chickpeace was my way of creating a business that not only had an environmental impact but a social one as well. I wanted to fill a gap in Kelowna to help our community spend their dollars in a way that aligned with their values.”
Lyndsay and Graham met in British Columbia and quickly set their sights on opening a winery in the Okanagan Valley, known for its fine grape growing conditions. The couple relocated to New Zealand to study, and returned to Okanagan in 2007 with honours degrees in oenology and viticulture. They knew from the beginning they wanted their business to be a sustainable one, making their vineyard a healthy environment for their family and generations to come. They committed to finding the truly best sustainable practices, going on to be certified sustainable by Sustainable Winegrowing British Columbia. They focus on things like protecting the natural ecosystem around them, soil health, natural pest management, sustainable power, water conservation, and sustainable waste management.
We asked Lyndsay how this business impacted them or their community in ways they did or didn't expect.
“Tightrope Winery was the first winery to be certified sustainable by Sustainable Winegrowing British Columbia. It is my hope that by being the first we can inspire other wineries and vineyards to pursue their own sustainable certification and eventually get the whole BC wine industry involved. We have also been using our status as a certified sustainable winery to get the word out to consumers that the BC wine industry cares about its environment and its people and works hard to bring consumers wine that is made sustainably.”
We asked both Alisha and Lyndsay if they had any advice for women/non-binary people that want to get into business, sustainability movements, or both. Alisha and Lyndsay both shared the importance of “going for it”. Alisha said that fear and discomfort is a sign that you are growing, and is at its core an incredible place to be. You can’t let others hold you back from following your dreams or making the social impact you want to make. “It is scary but it’s also the most rewarding journey”. Lynsday wants women/non-binary people to remember that you don’t have to be perfect to start. “Sustainability is a journey, and one where there is continual improvement”. She says you just need to start with as many sustainable practices as you can, and push yourself to continuously improve as you and your business grow.