At the same time, women have also fought on the front lines against plastic pollution. They make sustainable consumption and disposal decisions for their families and communities. They keep cities and towns clean by collecting and selling plastic waste to recyclers. And they make important policy and business decisions to protect the environment and defend the most vulnerable in spite of the systemic obstacles that persist to this day.
There is broad consensus that the transition to a circular economy for plastics – and the shift to a green and sustainable world – must go hand-in-hand with building a plastics value chain that is inclusive and gender-equal. One that uplifts the insights and challenges of women and makes sure they are seated at the decision-making table. But what might that look like in practice?
Here, three women leaders from the Global Plastic Action Partnership community, representing diverse perspectives from the United States, Ghana and Viet Nam, weigh in on what it will take to eradicate plastic pollution – and why women’s leadership and gender equality are absolutely vital to this effort.
1. Dune Ives
Executive Director, Lonely Whale
Civil society, United States
Your organization employs creative campaigns to get consumers and businesses to stop relying on single-use plastics. Is gender a consideration when you develop these campaigns?
We always start with research. In the case of our “Question How You Hydrate” campaign, which focused on eliminating single-use plastic water bottles—500 billion of which are used globally each year—our market research showed our messaging would most likely resonate with U.S. millennial moms of white and Hispanic descent.
Since launch, we have seen an increase in awareness and behaviour change, and we continue to explore creative partnerships with strong female voices. One of the notable involvements in our recent work was the poem “Ode to our Ocean,” written and read by Amanda Gorman and distributed in partnership with Lonely Whale, Atmos and Future Earth on World Oceans Day 2020.
Women are always part of our campaigns, but our experience has demonstrated that men and those who identify as male also care deeply about the environment. Oftentimes, these men are fathers and husbands like Jason Momoa, Russell Wilson, Van Jones and Diplo. Others have a deep and first hand understanding of how the injustices happening to marginalized communities and the Earth are interconnected such as Wyn Wiley/Pattie Gonia, Danny Franzese, Kendrick Sampson, and Xuihtezcatl Martinez.
2. Le Thi Thu Thuy
Chairwoman, VinFast; Vice Chairwoman, Vingroup
Private sector, Viet Nam
What role have women in Viet Nam played in managing plastic waste and promoting the circular economy? What role is your company playing?
Segregation at the source is the key in solid waste management. In Viet Nam, women are often exposed to waste as they are expected to perform the bulk of domestic work. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, 90% of waste segregation at source in Vietnamese households is done by women. Therefore, women play a critical role in managing plastic waste and thereby promoting the circular economy. At Vingroup, many successful waste reduction campaigns have been launched by female leaders to actively raise customer and community awareness in building and preserving a healthy environment.
As a founding member of the Viet Nam National Plastic Action Partnership, we are at our core a sustainable business. We recently launched the VinFuture Prize to promote breakthroughs in scientific research and technological innovations for humanity, including solving environmental problems and creating a more equitable and sustainable world for future generations.
Our subsidiary VinSmart has launched a "Say No to Plastic" campaign to minimize the use of plastics in business practices by using recyclable or environmentally friendly packaging, such as recycled paper, cardboard, ESD plastic trays, and pallets. Vinpearl, a hospitality industry leader in Viet Nam, has also implemented the project "Go Green" to reduce nearly 1.4 tons of plastic waste across its network in one month.