With women playing an influential role in helping to create an equitable, low carbon society, Sneha Patel, head of New York City’s Women in Sustainability Network Hub, talks about women’s role in sustainability and how the landscape is changing.
Women in Sustainability is a network for professional female changemakers to maximize their impact.
The organization was formed following a realization of the power that women have when aligned on a common goal and shared values base. This led to the network’s foundation as a result of helping female changemakers access a powerful peer community.
Founded by Rhian Sherrington, she has since helped launch Women in Sustainability (WINS) Network Hubs across the UK, Germany and indeed in New York City.
And leading New York City’s operations is Sneha Patel. She is a well-renowned and established package professional within the FMCG industry who has developed a reputation for adapting to the rapidly evolving and competitive packaging marketplace. Patel has worked in a number of innovation, e-commerce and consulting roles within research and development and throughout her career, she has taken unconventional business development approaches to drive sustainability initiatives in her current role.
In our exclusive Q&A, we hear from Patel to find out more about her work with Women in Sustainability and how the perception of sustainability is changing, particularly within North America.
Can you start by giving us an insight into how you came to be at Women in Sustainability?
Sneha Patel (SP): As I have been navigating my career within the packaging industry, my passion towards sustainability became truly relevant over the last few years. The sustainability industry holistically has been on a trajectory to become a sector where it’s no longer an area that is a secondary thought in the business landscape.
My purpose has been to become a catalyst for change across this sector, to empower and support other women that are looking to move the needle across various arenas. Through this journey of discovery, I had stumbled upon a global network called Women in Sustainability. I was immediately drawn to this sustainability impact enterprise and could resonate towards a community that shared my vision and like-mindedness. I joined the Women in Sustainability network as the first expansion hub into the United States, to lead the New York City region.
Can you introduce us to Women in Sustainability? What is it about and can you outline your mission statement?
SP: At Women in Sustainability, we create community to inspire and nurture impact. We love bringing together women who share common values that include making a difference, treading lightly on this planet, being authentic and leading change. Our values steer both how we roll as a business but also how we deliver the network, our hub events and other services.
As a network for professional female changemakers that are seeking to maximize impact, in what ways are you making this happen?
SP: I connect with women that share a similar purpose and mindset firstly to find out what’s valuable to them to gain a deeper understanding of what drives them. I share my knowledge to help identify why they are seeking change through mindset coaching to bring to surface deeper rooted areas of their professional ambitions. I leverage my expertise as a mentor as well to guide conversations that support others to amplify their actions and take steps towards creating sustainable change within their organizations or community.
Can you talk to us about the network hub events that you offer?
SP: One of the ways we support our members and community are through network hub events. These events are held virtually at the moment due to the pandemic and the purpose of the events are to empower, educate, and motivate our members to gain more understanding through expert speakers and lens on a multitude of topics related to sustainability.
How has COVID-19 changed operations? How successful have events been in a virtual format?
SP: COVID-19 has absolutely changed the landscape on how we manage our business and support our community members. We have had success on launching to a virtual format and at the same time have presented its own challenges. The virtual format has provided us an uplifting pathway to become more agile and flexible as many of us are juggling full time corporate roles, businesses, are working mothers, and so forth and still stay well connected with women globally.
How have you noticed people’s perceptions of sustainability change over the past few years?
SP: People’s perceptions of sustainability has certainly evolved over the last few years. The evolution of the idea of sustainability or sustainable development was mainly focused on environmental issues. Over the years, we have shifted our perspective as humans to think more holistically about the key factors and drivers of what sustain means. We know that sustainability is no longer a nice to have, or just a line on a corporation’s annual report. As humans, we must continue to become more conscious of the social, economic, and environmental aspects of ways we can sustain our planet. It’s no longer an ‘I’ problem, it is a ‘We’ problem.
With the future in mind, what are your hopes for the next few years at Women in Sustainability?
SP: My hopes for Women in Sustainability are to educate, empower and develop the next generation of sustainability leaders. We have seen the shift and loudly hear the importance of how they feel when it comes to nurturing our well-being through sustainable actions. I am very hopeful that we will continue to truly provide scalable resources to our future entrepreneurs to continue challenging the societal norms and for women to amplify their voices to create positive change in our world.