Three experts on why eradicating plastic pollution will help achieve gender equality

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Kristin Hughes, Director, Global Plastic Action Partnership, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum Geneva


  • Women fight on the frontlines against plastic pollution.
  • 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.
  • Women’s inclusion in the waste sector needs to go all the way up to policy level to enable a plastic waste management sector that reflects gender parity.

For decades, the forces that drive our global dependence on single-use plastics and our inability to keep plastic waste out of the environment have hit women and marginalized communities the hardest.

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.

What it will take to eradicate plastic pollution? Image: Our World in Data

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.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about the gender gap?

The World Economic Forum has been measuring gender gaps since 2006 in the annual Global Gender Gap Report.

The Global Gender Gap Report tracks progress towards closing gender gaps on a national level. To turn these insights into concrete action and national progress, we have developed the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators model for public private collaboration.

These accelerators have been convened in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Panama and Peru in partnership with the InterAmerican Development Bank. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1377167636979609603&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.weforum.org%2Fagenda%2F2021%2F03%2Fthree-experts-on-why-eradicating-plastic-pollution-will-help-achieve-gender-equality%2F&theme=light&widgetsVersion=e1ffbdb%3A1614796141937&width=550px

In 2019 Egypt became the first country in the Middle East and Africa to launch a Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator. While more women than men are now enrolled in university, women represent only a little over a third of professional and technical workers in Egypt. Women who are in the workforce are also less likely to be paid the same as their male colleagues for equivalent work or to reach senior management roles.

In these countries CEOs and ministers are working together in a three-year time frame on policies that help to further close the economic gender gaps in their countries. This includes extended parental leave, subsidized childcare and removing unconscious bias in recruitment, retention and promotion practices.

If you are a business in one of the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator countries you can join the local membership base.

If you are a business or government in a country where we currently do not have a Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator you can reach out to us to explore opportunities for setting one up.

3. Adwoa Coleman

Africa Sustainability and Advocacy Manager, Dow
Private sector, Ghana

The Government of Ghana and the World Economic Forum have launched a national platform in Ghana for addressing plastic pollution, of which Dow is an active supporter and champion. What is your vision for how this platform can support women’s leadership and entrepreneurship in Ghana?

My vision for the national platform is to exceed the quotas for female inclusion in all our pillars, to institute female inclusion in the sector all the way up to policy level and to enable a plastic waste management sector in Ghana that reflects gender parity at all stages.

The role of women in Ghana in plastic waste management cannot be understated. Women can be found at all levels of the plastic waste value chain: from waste reclaiming to aggregation to recycling. However, there is a notable reduction in participation of women as you move further up the value chain, which also unfortunately correlates with the roles where the earning potential is more.

There are several ways in which stakeholders can support the leadership of women in this area. For instance, we need to ensure an adequate representation of women as a criterion for public-private partnerships in waste management. Private sector actors who rely on women in the waste reclaiming sector should also ensure equal pay for their male and female suppliers and place emphasis on training and upskilling for the women.

For citizens, sensitization around the role women play in this sector is key. There is a general misconception that women in this sector are playing a biological role, which is not the case. Women in waste have a right to the same level or respect and visibility as any other form of employment.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Climate action ‘both a priority and a driver of the decade’: Guterres

Finland is a world leader in clean energy. Here’s what’s driving its success

Trump’s Russophiles under investigation, Europe remains ‘en garde’

Syria war: executions condemned as violence continues ‘on both sides’ of border with Turkey

Now is the time to seize ‘unprecedented opportunity’ of the Sustainable Development Forum, says ECOSOC President

Afghanistan extends ceasefire with Taliban; UN urges both sides to work towards lasting peace

EU and China in search of a win-win agreement through strategic cooperation ahead of the EU-China summit

‘Wind blowing in the direction of peace’ in Africa: UN Secretary-General

Harnessing the power of nature in the fight against climate change

Rule of law in Hungary: Parliament should ask Council to act, say committee MEPs

COP25: ‘Signals of hope’ multiplying in face of global climate crisis, insists UN chief Guterres

Council Presidency: Floundering with the EU 2014 budget

EU Banks still get subsidies from impoverished citizens

Century challenge: inclusion of immigrants in the health system

State aid: Commission approves €53 million public support scheme for charging stations for low emission vehicles in Romania

Is China about to launch its own cryptocurrency?

European Health Union: Commission publishes open public consultation on the European Health Data Space

Trade preferences boost developing countries’ exports to the European Union

These are New York Public Library’s 10 most borrowed books

Bank resolutions to remain a politically influenced affair

China in my eyes

5 charts that show renewable energy’s latest milestone

Making the move to more sustainable mobility – three steps for companies

This young activist explains how to change the world in 3 steps

Hungary’s emergency measures: MEPs ask EU to impose sanctions and stop payments

Telemedicine: union when the rule is isolation

International partners pledge $1.2 billion to help cyclone-hit Mozambique recover, ‘build back better’

Vulnerable young people must not be blamed & stigmatised for violent radicalisation

Scotland wants to create an ethical stock exchange (Post Brexit)

Addressing the Challenges of COVID-19 Vaccination

The future of the plastics industry is green

A clean energy future with hydrogen could be closer than we think

Human rights breaches in Guinea Conakry and Madagascar

Art, mental health and suicide: different strategies for increasing access to health services

As human genome editing moves from the lab to the clinic, the ethical debate is no longer hypothetical

How debt for climate swaps could spur a green recovery

The UN’s unyielding effort to tackle sexual abuse and exploitation: our quarterly update

Security Union: Significant progress and tangible results over past years but efforts must continue

Impact investing in Latin America and addressing the ‘missing middle’

Governments must take further action to boost job opportunities at an older age

EUREKA @ European Business Summit 2014: Innovation across borders – mobilising national R&D funds for transnational innovation in Europe

The world’s impact in a small Brazilian town and the increased demand for mental health

Long-term EU budget: The Union’s ambitions must be matched with sufficient reliable funding

Time to pay up: UN summit to push for development finance breakthrough

‘Great cause of concern’ UN chief tells Security Council, surveying ‘bleak’ state of civilian protection

How Islamic finance can build resilience to climate change

Further reforms in France can drive growth, improve public finances and boost social cohesion

The best companies to work for in 2020, according to Glassdoor

Countries must up their game to reduce low birth weights, warns UN-backed report

Libya: EU efforts should focus on protecting migrants, MEPs say

MWC2021 Launches New Initiative to Widen Access for Spanish Industry Professionals

One in three children do not get the nutrition they need

Largest joint UN humanitarian convoy of the war, reaches remote Syrian settlement

Is the EU denying its social character favouring a banking conglomerate?

Why the UN is investigating poverty in the United Kingdom

Sustainable fishing staying afloat in developed world, sinking in poorer regions

A comprehensive strategy for Eurozone’s long term growth gains momentum

Silk Road Unlimited

This is how Europe is helping companies and workers as the coronavirus crisis deepens

UN chief announces progress on committee to shape Syria’s political future

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s