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Celebrating International Women’s Day 2023

At RSB, we know there is much to do to advance the transition to a biocircular economy. That is why we work with members and partners across the world to develop a robust and credible sustainability framework that supports solutions to the planetary crisis. However, we also know that, since starting over a decade ago, we have made incredible progress and serve as a guiding light to our collaborative network and the sustainability field as a whole. And on International Women’s Day, that is worth celebrating.

It is especially important to recognise the incredible contributions that women have made to sustainable development. While women are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation and climate impacts, women have also been at the forefront of many movements that advocate for policies and actions that address the urgent need for sustainable practices. As a women-led team – including Elena Schmidt (Executive Director), Nicola Noponen (Technical Director), Arianna Baldo (Programme Director), Hannah Walker (Outreach & Engagement Director), Maiju Helin (Chair of RSB’s Board of Directors) and Laurel Harmon (Vice Chair of RSB’s Board of Directors) – RSB and our collaborative network are shining examples of the important role that women play in pushing sustainability forward.

“Bringing women into positions where they can contribute to innovations and solutions to combat the planetary crisis is critical, as they bring important perspectives that would be missing otherwise. Women bring a leadership style based on networking and collaboration, which is key to addressing the systemic challenges we are facing. The most innovative organisations are those that are successfully bringing in diversity. And a female leadership style is ideally suited to work in collaboration with partners.”Elena Schmidt.

“Studies have also shown that when women have greater access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities, they are more likely to participate in sustainable practices and advocate for environmental protection. Therefore, promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment will increase the number of individuals who actively engage in environmental conservation efforts. And so, as George Monbiot said: If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.”  – Arianna Baldo.

RSB’s commitment to sustainability is deeply intertwined with our dedication to gender equality and social justice, as evidenced in our sustainability framework – notably Principle 2 (Planning, Monitoring and Continuous Improvement), Principle 4 (Human & Labour Rights) and Principle 5 (Rural and Social Development). See here for more. We recognise that gender equality and environmental sustainability are deeply interconnected, and so by empowering women and promoting gender equality, RSB not only advances the sustainability agenda, but also fostering a more just and equitable world.

“RSB’s Principles and Criteria set out a framework to help embed holistic sustainability at all levels of the global biocircular economy, to provide all economies, all sectors, all workplaces, with a consistent framework on which to build a workplace where equality is at its heart. But RSB also pioneers this from within, with a female leadership team that has the trust and support of the diverse RSB Board of Directors, to build a team and a strategy that leads by example. RSB nurtures a team where all individuals have the opportunity to thrive. When women lead, we all benefit.”Nicola Noponen.

“We are incredibly proud to be a women-led organisation working to bring positive impacts to people and the planet – particularly rural livelihoods where these impacts can uplift women around the world. With female leadership both at secretariat and board level, we feel very connected to this mission and also to starting that change at home: by providing a nurturing and supportive environment for our amazing team, our members and everyone we work with.”Hannah Walker

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we must acknowledge that there is still much work to be done to achieve the twin goals of gender equality and environmental sustainability. Women continue to face significant barriers in the workforce and in leadership positions, and climate change and environmental degradation continue to threaten our planet.

However, women-led organisations like RSB and the fearless women in our collaborative network are testament to the progress that is possible when we, as a global community, empower women to take leadership roles in the sustainability field and support a just transition to a net-positive world.

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