WNSF: Giving Women a Voice in the Sustainability Debate

WNSF%20logo.gifMany believe that business will be the primary driver of change as our society moves toward more sustainable practices and lifestyles. A recent Havas Media survey confirms this assertion: 70% of consumers surveyed say they look to business rather than government to lead the way on issues related to the environment and social justice.
The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future (WNSF) believes women in business will play a significant and unique role in this transformation. The New York-based non profit provides a forum for business and professional women to meet, reflect and act on the convergent issues of corporate social responsibility and sustainable development. WNSF will hold its first West Coast Summit on Thursday, May 21, 2009 at Intel Headquarters in Santa Clara, CA. Triple Pundit recently had a chance to speak with their Executive Director, Ann Goodman.


Triple Pundit: What is unique about the business women’s view of this topic?
Ann Goodman: We feel there are particular workplace initiatives, like sustainability, where women can play a key leadership role. For example, the push for more work-life balance in the work place was an initiative that was primarily led by women. We don’t necessarily believe women are better at sustainability, but we think they feel more strongly about it. And by the way, men are welcome to join our organization. But our primary mission is to give women a voice in the sustainability debate.
3P: What industries are represented in your group, and what types of job functions?
AG: We include a wide variety of industries and we welcome participation from women in all parts of business including marketing, communications, legal affairs, investor relations, human resources, finance, strategy, philanthropy, environment health and safety, and corporate citizenship. WNSF welcomes anyone to participate in its general activities and has recently launched a Leadership Circle that convenes top voices in sustainability.

3P: Can you give us the highlights on some of the activities and resources you offer?

wnsf-foto2.jpgAG: We host Peer Learning Sessions where we focus on pertinent sustainability issues. The topic of a recent session was the impact of the economic crisis on climate change initiatives. We had about 100 people there and featured speakers including the Director from the New York Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. You can read the highlights from the discussions on our website. We also host an annual conference in New York and are about to hold our first conference on the West Coast. We have also developed a training workshop for emerging women leaders.
3P: How much support is your group getting from the business community?
AG: Well, we’ve been active for over 6 years now, and the interest and response from the business community has been very strong. Our current corporate sponsors for the first West Coast Summit include Symantec, Adobe Systems Incorporated, Applied Materials, and Hewlett-Packard. We also have some real leaders in the field on our Advisory Board, like Ray Anderson from Interface.
There’s still time to register for the West Coast Summit, which is designed to increase understanding of clean technology and the potential contributions that the technology industry can make to advancing sustainability. Mary Nichols, Chairman of the California Air Resources Board, will be the keynote speaker. Others scheduled to speak are: Lorie Wigle of Intel, Nancy Parmer of UPS, Bonnie Nixon of HP and Mary Dent of SVB Financial Group.

My professional experience over the past 20 years has taken me from Madison Avenue to Silicon Valley in various marketing research, marketing, business development and sales roles. I now work as a freelance environmental writer and researcher while pursuing an MBA in Sustainable Management at the Presidio Graduate School.I'm especially interested in the use of technology to address the issues of education, equality, environment, health, and economic development.You can keep tabs on me at Triple Pundit and the NY Times Green Inc blog, email me at jameswitkin@gmail.com, or find me typing away at the various coffee shops around Palo Alto.