14 Famous Female Leaders on Climate Change, Sustainability and Protecting Our Environment

14 Famous Female Leaders on Climate Change, Sustainability and Protecting Our Environment

While there are many prominent men flying the flag for climate change and sustainability – Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio quickly spring to mind here – there are plenty of prominent women leading the way too. Below, famous female leaders from a variety of professions and backgrounds, share their thoughts on climate change, sustainability and what it takes to protect our environment.

We hope you enjoy reading the curated wisdom from the women making green waves and working for our collective, environmental good!

1. Gloria Steinem, Journalist, Feminist Writer & Activist

Overpopulation is still the biggest reason for global warming, for all the pressure on the environment.” —Nature’s Edge” ABC News 2011

2. Hillary Clinton, Former Secretary of State & Former First Lady 

“I would say that particularly for women… they will bear the brunt of looking for the food, looking for the firewood, looking for the place to migrate to when all of the grass is finally gone as the desertification moves south and you have to keep moving your livestock, your crops are no longer growing they’re burning up and the intense heat we’re now seeing reported across North Africa into the Middle East and into India. So yes, women once again will be primarily burdened with the problems of climate change.” —Georgetown University, addressing human rights, February 2018

Hillary Clinton on Sustainability, Environment and Climate Change
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at the Intramural Fields at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona 2016. Credit: Gage Skidmore /Flickr

3. Emma Thompson, Actress, Writer & Environmental Activist

“A future dependent on fossil fuels will only bring further, deepening disaster: more drought, floods, famine, conflict, refugees. Miami’s future is in the balance. This is no conspiracy. We are witnessing it now. We can choose to hide in fear, but fear is a liar. When renewable energy solutions are available now — and getting cheaper by the day — we have to ask ourselves why we are allowing big oil and big coal to determine our fate and that of our children. It’s time to protect our world, our climate, our kids and theirs after them. We can do it if we act together. It’s a no-brainer people. Let’s get on with it.” —Impacting Our Future 2017

4. Stella McCartney, Fashion Designer

“If everyone in the design world created a more sustainable product with more mindfulness, then it wouldn’t even be a conversation. But they’re not… We need to impose new laws on designers because sadly people aren’t taking responsibility, and there is no incentive to encourage them. In order to encourage people to have better practice in their business, to have better product for the planet and the animals who inhabit it with us, then there absolutely should be some laws in place to make it harder for people to screw the planet up.” —Dezeen, February 2018

'If everyone in the design world created a more sustainable product with more mindfulness, then it wouldn't even be a conversation. But they're not...' - Stella McCartneyClick To Tweet
Stella McCartney on Sustainablility, Sustainable Fashion and Environment
Credit: Stella McCartney

5. Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister, New Zealand

“Our Pacific island neighbours are being challenged by rising sea levels as we speak and face the looming prospect of becoming climate refugees. In New Zealand our glaciers have lost nearly a quarter of their ice since 1977 and last year was our warmest on record.  New Zealanders are deeply concerned not only about what is happening to our country but what is happening to our planet… No matter how small we are we have a role to play as we all do.”—APEC Summit, November 2017

6. Jessica Alba, Actress, Co-Founder, The Honest Company & Author “The Honest Life

“I think the more accessible and affordable we can make this eco-living, the more it will convert people… You don’t necessarily have to be an extreme, I think you can have a balanced approach. I think that every little thing that all of us do, will make a big difference and will have a big impact.”  —Years of Living Dangerously” National Geographic, May 2014

I think the more accessible and affordable we can make this eco-living, the more it will convert people... I think that every little thing that all of us do, will make a big difference and will have a big impact.' - Jessica AlbaClick To Tweet
Jessica Alba, Actress, Co-Founder, The Honest Company and Author The Honest Life
Founder and COO of The Honest Company Jessica Alba speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2016. Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch

7. Christiana Figueres, Former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC)

“The world has taken an important step by adopting the Paris Agreement in 2015. That step was necessary, but not sufficient. I am now dedicating my energies to ensuring that we deliver on the Paris Agreement in a timely fashion in order to avert the worst effects of climate change. That means bending the global curve of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and descending thereafter until we reach a decarbonized economy. This is the only way to eradicate extreme poverty and set the course for an economy that thrives in the long run and for everyone.” —Quartz, February 2018

8. Vivienne Westwood, Fashion Designer & Activist

“What I want people to be able to do is to buy well, by first choosing well and then making it last. And I also believe that if everyone wore just a few beautiful things, there would not be such a climate change problem… The status quo will kill us. People don’t realise how quickly we are marching towards a possible mass extinction. Once the global temperature goes up beyond two degrees, you can’t stop it.”—The Guardian, February 2004

9. Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA & Author of “Story of Stuff” 

“For years, we’ve been conned into thinking the problem of plastic packaging can be solved through better individual action. We’re told that if we simply recycle we’re doing our part. We’re told that if we bring reusable bags to the grocery store, we’re saving the world. We think that if we drink from a reusable bottle, we’re making enough of a difference. But the truth is that we cannot recycle our way out of this mess… We need corporations – those like Coca-Cola, Unilever, Starbucks and Nestlé that continue to churn out throwaway plastic bottles, cups, and straws – to step up and show real accountability for the mess they’ve created. Drink companies produce over 500bn single-use plastic bottles annually; there is no way that we can recycle our way out of a problem of that scale.” —The Guardian, June 2018

10. Lucy Siegle, Journalist, TV Presenter & Author of “To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?”

“The environmental footprint of today’s fashion industry is extraordinary, making it one of the top five most polluting industries on earth, alongside the petrochemical industry. Many fashion industry insiders are seriously worried, not necessarily because they fret over greenhouse gases caused by the supply chain, but because there is now so much over-supply of fashion that it’s becoming difficult to have a successful season – particularly as we now have 50 seasons rather than the traditional two of spring/summer and autumn/winter. Some commentators refer to today’s relentless cycle as a “supermarket of style.” —BBC News, October 2017

To Die For- Is Fashion Wearing Out The World? Lucy Siegle Eco Fashion Book
“To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?” by Lucy Siegle

11. Indra Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCo

“To me it’s personal, because I grew up in a highly water-distressed city in the south of India. We had maybe an hour of water in the morning and had to collect all we could so we could live. That city is still water-distressed, yet we have beverage plants there. And in many parts of the world that are water-distressed, we have facilities. So one of the pillars of our environmental sustainability is reducing the water use in our plants and figuring out how to make the whole community water-positive, bringing our technologies in there, passing on technologies to farmers so they can farm and water their crops in a way that is efficient [to help] conserve water.”  —Fast Company, September 2017

12. Jane Goodall, Primatologist & Anthropologist

“CEOs and people in government can make major decisions that affect hundreds of thousands of people – they just need to think about the future, instead of the next shareholders meeting. We have to have a very radical change in attitude, if we care about our future generations.” —capacity4dev.eu, March 2018

'CEOs and people in government can make major decisions that affect hundreds of thousands of people – they just need to think about the future, instead of the next shareholders meeting.' - Jane Goodall Click To Tweet
Jane Goodall on Climate Change, Environment and Sustainability
Jane Goodall at a talk at the World Bank’s Preston Auditorium in 2011. World Bank Vice President Inger Andersen hosts the event.
Photo: Kristoffer Tripplaar /World Bank



13. Dame Ellen MacArthur – Retired sailor & Founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

“The world’s current take-make-dispose linear economy is outdated. It is also the root cause of some of today’s most challenging problems. Planet Earth faces a waste plastic crisis that no amount of well-intentioned clean-ups can solve. The answer lies in the creation of a circular economy. We need to move beyond a philosophy of single use. All products, and especially plastics, metals and textiles, should be designed with the intention that their raw materials will be recovered and recycled. The circular economy offers a blueprint for a way of life that is restorative and regenerative.” —National Geographic, June 2018

14. Naomi Klein,  Journalist, Activist & Author of “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

“Battling climate change is a once-in-a-century chance to build a fairer and more democratic economy. We can and must design a system in which the polluters pay a very large share of the cost of transitioning away from fossil fuels. And in wealthy countries such as Britain and the US, we need migration policies and levels of international financing that reflect what we owe to the global south, given our historic role in destabilising the economies and ecologies of poorer nations for a great many years, and the vast wealth of empire extracted from these societies in bonded human flesh.” —The Guardian, September 2017

Naomi Klein on Sustainability, Climate Change and Environment
“This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate” by Naomi Klein

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