-By Jack Emerick
The world and practice of sustainability is a vastly growing and more leaders are emerging every day to shape a better future. These leaders range from CEO’s of multimillion-dollar corporations to chemists. They come from a large array of industries including tech, clothing, and consumer goods. Who are these leaders and how are they impacting and influencing your future? Here are just a few of these sustainability leaders you should know about:
1. Elon Musk - CEO and Chairman, Tesla
Most famously known as the CEO of Tesla, Elon has always been an innovator and change-maker. In his early days, he taught himself how to program which paved the way for a bright future. His wealth began to grow after he created and sold PayPal to Ebay in 2002. He continued to strive to push humankind forward. He founded Tesla, with the goal to provide affordable, mass-market electric cars, while promoting renewable energy. He is a strong advocate for advancement and innovation. After acquiring Solar City, he has since developed highly efficient solar cells. With Space-x becoming highly successful, and his idea of the Hyper-loop gaining some traction, he will continue to shape our future for years to come.
2. Paul Polman - CEO, Unilever
Year after year, Paul Polman continues to lead the way for corporate social responsibility and his held in high regard amongst his peers in terms of sustainability. As the CEO of Unilever, one of the largest consumer goods companies in the world, sustainability is no easy task. However, he has championed the art of what it means to be a “Green Company.” He has realized the change that a large company like Unilever can make and has used that to his advantage. In 2012, he was even asked by the UN to help establish their Sustainable Development Goals and as the only corporate executive on this committee, he gained renown. As Unilever is changing, they are considering a successor to Polman possibly. The legacy he has built at Unilever is a strong one, however the mark he has left on the world is much larger.
3. Christiana Figueres - Former Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC)
Christiana is recognized as a leader on global climate change. After the failed negotiations in Copenhagen, she powered through and was determined to create a successful framework. Her work came together finally in the Paris Agreement of 2015. She has received several awards and recognition including the Great Cross of the Order of Merit of Germany, the Legion of Honor of France, and the Grand medal of the City of Paris. She continues to bring together powerful people including leaders of government, corporations, financial institutions, technology, and NGO’s to create her own brand of diplomacy. She encourages major players to talk about climate change as a serious matter and stresses the need to come together as a global entity to get back on track.
4. Michael Braungart - Chemist, Co-author of Cradle to Cradle
Michael is one of the founding fathers of the idea of Cradle to Cradle which is discussed in a book of the same name. This is a simple idea, but also a profound one. It urges us to change the way we make and develop products and other goods. By developing production and production process in a loop instead of a linear cycle, it is not only harmless to man or nature, but even beneficial. Cradle to Cradle also keeps several sustainability aspects in mind including health, the environment, economics, and society. It limits harmful chemicals in products and the financial costs of systems is shown to be lower. Dr. Braungart has won several awards including the Impose Award, Hero of the Planet Award from TIME Magazine, and the Urban Mining Award.
Jack Emerick is a student intern at Arizona Forward and a senior at Arizona State University studying sustainability and minoring in business. He served four years in the United States Marine Corps before moving to Scottsdale, AZ. His hobbies include snowboarding, hiking, and traveling. He hopes to someday run his own business using sustainable techniques and practices.