Reflection on the Women in Green Forum - by Valeree Catangay

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Last Thursday, August 16th, I attended the 9th Annual Women in Green Forum organized by Three Squares Inc. What a thrill it was to be around women making such strides in the environment and sustainability fields!

First off, I have to applaud the Women in Green Forum’s meticulous attention to being “green”, which is surprisingly rare for sustainability related events. The CarbonNeutral certified event featured vegetarian, sustainably-sourced catering, a comprehensive waste diversion system, environmentally preferred conference materials, and much more. The organizers not only kept the environment in mind, but also the overall well-being of attendees, which is often overlooked in conference planning. The WiG Forum provided plenty of breaks to get up and enjoy outdoor green space, a wellness booth, and even stationary bicycles to stay moving while listening to panel sessions.

One panel that particularly stood out to me was titled “Buy the Change”. Representatives from Campbell Soup Company, Unilever, and Eileen Fisher discussed integrating sustainability into mass production systems of consumer products. The panel was a great reminder of the ways that our purchasing habits can influence and be influenced by the state of our environment, whether it’s in a company’s supply chain, employee workforce, or brand image. “Stop looking at sustainability as a trend, because trends come and go,” said Sonika Malhotra, Global Brand Director of Love Beauty and Planet, a brand under Unilever.  

Though the panelists made it apparent that addressing social and environmental impact is key to a thriving business model, there is still a long way to go. Brands like Patagonia and Eileen Fisher have been exemplary in providing transparency on where their materials come from, how they impact communities, and how they can continuously eliminate waste from their practices. I hope that other companies will expand initiatives to drastically reduce the amount of toxic chemicals and single-use plastics that they release into our environment globally as well. As consumers, we can “buy the change” by purchasing environmentally preferred products and holding brands accountable for their actions by demanding transparency.

As a Filipino-American woman aspiring to be a sustainability professional, it was empowering to be in a room full of women who are working hard to create significant positive change for our planet in all different forms. My greatest takeaway from the WiG Forum was this: whatever career we choose, we can all do our part to apply environmental values to our jobs and work collectively towards a sustainable world.

 

Note: Thank you so much to Three Squares Inc. and the sponsors that gave me an opportunity attend the event and participate in the Youth Mentorship Program, which pairs high school, undergraduate, and graduate students with an attendee working in the field during the event. For interested students, I highly recommend applying to next year’s scholarship, which allows you to receive mentorship and attend the forum for free!

Denise Braun Ryan