Climate change is one of the greatest threats to contemporary society. The consequences of many years of abusing the planet have surfaced in the form of frequent and aggressive storms ravaging islands and coasts, wildfires blitzing California, and quickly rising temperatures. Some historians and professors have even begun to question whether the problem has passed the point of no return.
Among the buzz of marches and protests led by young environmentalists, there has been a rise of “green entrepreneurship.” Interest in environmentally-conscious processes and products has dramatically increased, with companies realizing how important sustainability is to consumers — and the planet.
Though many enterprises have shifted their strategies to include a sustainable spin, the following female-led companies are going above and beyond to protect the planet — and assure a better future for generations to come.
The Ocean Advocate
Entrepreneur Daniela V. Fernandez is the founder of the Sustainable Ocean Alliance, a non-profit company based in California. The idea for SOA evolved from a student-led club within Georgetown University that Fernandez was involved in during her time in college.
SOA's goal, according to an interview with Marie Claire magazine, was “to develop young environmental leaders and accelerate solutions for ocean health and sustainability.”
Now, Fernandez and her team work full-time to support dozens of Ocean-Tech startups. SOA also invests in over 1,000 global ocean impact projects and connects environmental leaders in over 155 countries.
One capstone SOA initiative is the Ocean Leadership Program, which provides a platform for young leaders interested in ocean conservation.
Whether it culminates in ocean hackathons or advocacy campaigns, “SOA fosters the leadership skills and entrepreneurial spirit of [its] ocean leaders and challenges them to design creative policy and business initiatives, while providing them access to high-level summits to showcase their ideas and solutions.”
SOA is also known for its Ocean Solutions Accelerator, a program which selects a cohort of startups to train and propel forward.
For all her contributions to the betterment of society, Fernandez has been inducted into Forbes’ 30 under 30 list, as well as the World Economic Forum’s Friends of Ocean Action.
Shoot for the Stars, Land on the Sun
One of many women battling climate change through tech solutions, Lynn Jurich is the co-founder and CEO of Sunrun, the premiere residential solar company in the United States.
A big concern among environmentalists is the scarcity of energy sources. Renewable resources like solar and wind power have become increasingly popular alternatives in recent decades; however, few have implemented them on a commercial level. Jurich is an exception. Her company currently services 255,000+ customers in 22 states.
Sunrun was founded with the belief that “there is a better, less expensive, cleaner way for families to power their home. With Sunrun’s residential rooftop solar, storage and energy services, homeowners are saving money while dramatically reducing the amount of air pollution and carbon dioxide they release into the atmosphere.”
For over 12 years, Sunrun has sailed forward its earth-friendly alternative, with Jurich at the helm. The ship won’t stop until the company has successfully completed its mission of creating a planet run by the sun.
Fighting Fast Fashion
For more than a decade, sustainable clothing company Reformation has worked to counter the harmful waste and excess of the fast fashion industry. Fast fashion — cheap clothing created quickly in response to the latest trends — is a relatively un-discussed contributor to climate change.
The fashion industry is responsible for around 5 percent of all man-made gas emissions; a percentage which is predicted to grow going forward. To combat the emissions created in polyester and cotton production, some fashion companies, like Reformation, have committed themselves to more sustainable practices.
Yael Aflalo designed her company with climate change at the top of her mind, which is evident from the company’s motto: “Being naked is the #1 most sustainable option. Reformation is #2.” While the clothing is relatively pricey, Reformation emphasizes timeless styles which won’t be thrown out after a season.
The founder was inspired by a previous company she started in 1999, YaYa, which had accumulated a shocking “10 years of waste” in the warehouse by the time the company folded.
Aflalo wanted to make a more environmentally-viable company the second time around, which is why Reformation employs a strict set of environmental standards for its clothing, “taking into consideration water input, energy input, land use, eco-toxicity, greenhouse gas emissions, human toxicity, availability and price.”
Especially in recent years, Aflalo — a former model whose parents were also in retail — has seen Reformation boom in popularity. She is responsible for redefining the fashion industry and steering it toward a more eco-friendly future.
Along with her father, Jeffrey, Meika Hollender has dedicated her entrepreneurial career to nixing the harmful ingredients in reproductive and sexual health products and introducing new sustainable products that are better for your body and for Mother Earth.
The Hollenders founded Sustain Natural in 2013 — and from the very start, environmentalism has been a key concern.
“Environmentalists from day one, we make our products with the planet in mind. From sourcing Fair Trade latex for our condoms, to organic cotton for our tampons, we believe in building a brand that makes the world a better place,” reads the Sustain website. As they say: there is no Planet B.
Since Sustain turned the spotlight to the ingredients of reproductive products, there has been a noticeable shift in the industry. Other environmentally-conscious companies, such as LOLA, another all-natural provider of reproductive care, have begun to emerge, prioritizing quality over quantity.
While her contribution to environmentalism is honorable in-and-of-itself, Meika Hollender’s true impact is even greater. She’s shown that it’s entirely possible to create a company that is profitable, sustainable, and can compete with other companies in the industry that aren’t doing both. She’s created a model that can be adopted and adapted for almost any business.
You Are What You Eat On
In recent years, there have been huge waves of support for banning plastic straws and other wasteful one-use tableware. Before it was trendy, Lauren Gropper and her co-founders were trying to persuade retailers to stock their 100 percent sustainable cups, plates, straws, and cutlery.
The company, Repurpose, makes its products entirely out of plants as part of its “mission to reduce the amount of plastics in our environment and offer high quality, durable, and guilt-free renewable alternatives.”
Studies by the Ocean Conservatory reveal, “plastic has been found in more than 60 percent of all seabirds and 100 percent of sea turtle species. Ingesting plastic has life-threatening effects on wildlife — and this plastic eventually ends up being digested by humans.”
Looking to save animals and humans alike, Gropper has heralded her cause to the shelves of major stores, such as Wegmans, Amazon, and Whole Foods.
It hasn’t been easy, but perseverance and belief in the cause kept Gropper pushing, and now people are really starting to listen.