“Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.”

Originally attributed to playwright George Bernard Shaw, these words of inspiration were at the heart of an acceptance speech this spring during the 2022 Women in Sustainability Leadership awards, convened by the WSLA Alumnae Group. 

Recalling the example of her entrepreneurial grandparents, award recipient Cindy Wallis-Lage, executive director of sustainability and resilience at Black & Veatch, addressed how the simple process of regularly lending an ear to team members has helped her identify and support amazing projects to advance their careers. “When leaders invest time, it reinforces the idea that the person is valued,” she observed. “In turn [that person] values themself.”

Wallis-Lage was one of 11 women celebrated during this year’s virtual award ceremony recognizing women making a lasting impact in the sustainability field. While each honoree brings unique skills and experiences, all embody the characteristics of servant leadership, as I noted in closing remarks. In my mind, there are five central elements:

  1. The ability to listen to viewpoints of others, rather than making your voice the loudest in the room
  2. An appreciation for people for their whole selves, not just what they bring to an organization
  3. A sense of humility, one that recognizes great things are accomplished with and through others
  4. A willingness to trust
  5. A caring heart

“WSLA now totals 96 of the most accomplished, tough and resilient women who have dedicated their lives to creating a better world, one that is socially just and nurtures planet Earth and supports the continued evolution of life on it,” noted WSLA Alumnae Group President and Chair Rochelle Routman during her remarks at the ceremony. “Our commitment to mentorship is at the heart of this organization. This award is not a one-time recognition, it is a community of leaders that serve as a network and support system.” (You can read more about last year’s recipients here.)

Aside from Wallis-Lage, the other 10 honorees for 2022 (listed alphabetically) are:

  • Pamela Alabaster, senior vice president and global head of sustainability and social impact, Mattel
  • Fahmida Bangert, vice president of sustainability, ITRenew
  • Heidi de Cienfuegos, co-founder and director, B100arquitectos
  • Jill Dumain, global vice president of sustainability, SGS
  • Carrie Harris, head of sustainability, British Airways
  • Grace Kwok, chair person and executive director, Allied Sustainability and Environmental Consultants Group
  • Mili Majumdar, managing director, GBCI India; senior vice president, U.S. Green Building Council
  • Monika Nakielski, vice president of sustainability, Advocate Aurora Health
  • Kath Williams, president, Kath Williams + Associations
  • Bess Winston, managing director and founder, Winston Agency

Aside from the United States, this year’s award winners hail from China, India, Latin America and the United Kingdom. Disclosure: As a board member, I was involved in this year’s selection process. To learn more about some of the recipients, tune into the GreenBiz 350 podcast this summer. We’ll be featuring interviews with many of the recipients, starting with the July 8 episode.   

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