Taking Advantage of the Relational and Consumer Power of Women to Advance the Sustainability Agenda

Originally posted on February 23, 2011.  As the traditional homemakers, women are most often making the decisions regarding décor, design, and everyday products that are purchased and brought into the home. Women play a major role in choosing everything from furnishings and food to clothing and cleaning supplies. Even while building full-time careers and nurturing children, they are spending valuable time researching and learning about products every day, and purchasing the ones that best meet their needs and match their values—values that are more likely, according to a December 2009 survey conducted by Tiller, LLC, to include goals to live a more environmentally responsible lifestyle. Because of this, women have also generally been the target of marketing campaigns for “green” products and sustainable goods.

In contrast, men have most often been at the helm of the companies making those goods. While women are learning about these goods and opening their wallets to buy them, they have very little say in how these products are made, where they come from or how they are sold. I’d like to suggest that we need to close this gap, and bring more women to the sustainable table in order to make the creation of a sustainable world a reality.

Women’s voices need to be heard throughout the sustainable products community. Women are most certainly acting as “sustainability ambassadors” among their families and friends through their lifestyle choices. However, the power of women for moving the sustainability agenda forward has not been fully tapped into…yet. If we begin to truly include women in the conversation and increase their participation in the sustainability movement, we could certainly “fast forward” the advances and changes that must occur to realize a sustainable world.

Some companies like UPS, Hewlett Packard and Intel are taking this leap and including women in leadership roles that will impact their sustainability agenda. Think titles such as Director of Environmental Sustainability or General Manager of Eco-Technology. In positions like these, women can ask the right questions and apply their forward-thinking, global perspectives to move businesses forward and bring them in line with a more sustainable future, for our own country as well as the world. But without the input and guidance of educated, informed, and passionate women, companies making and selling sustainable products (or aiming to) will continue to miss the mark.

Beyond the retail sphere, women are underrepresented in a number of fields in which they could have a positive impact on our environment. I’d like to suggest that if more women were involved in the transportation, environmental, energy, and construction fields, we would be seeing a greater move toward smart, sustainable solutions to some of the toughest problems we face in our nation – and around the world.

You see, women aren’t only interested in seeing our own country turn around when it comes to sustainable products and environmental improvements. Relationships are important to us, and those relationships go beyond our immediate sphere of influence. We see beyond the current generation and the borders of our own country. We want to be an example, not just to our families, friends and neighbors, but to other nations. Like most Americans, women see the United States as a leader. We want to be at the head of the pack, lighting the path for other nations to begin moving toward a more sustainable, eco-friendly way of life. We can’t do it on our own; the world is too big for that. But if more women are involved in the solution at a higher level, we can begin the conversation, start the necessary work and lead the way toward a cleaner, greener future.

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