Salix celebrates the achievements of women in the sustainability and energy industry this International Women’s Day!
This International Women’s Day (8th March), Salix is celebrating the achievements of women in the sustainability and energy industry who are collectively helping to lead the way and broaden perceptions surrounding the climate emergency, increasing visibility of women and making a positive difference in their industry.
We spoke to Alex Green, Programme Manager at Ashden LESS CO2, and Sue Kinsella, Street Light Asset Manager for Kent County Council. Below we discuss their achievements to date.
Alex Green, Programme Manager for Ashden LESS CO2
Alex leads the LESS CO2 programme for Ashden, a London-based charity with a mission to accelerate transformative climate solutions and build a more just world. Working directly with schools, Ashden looks to reduce carbon and encourage sustainable behaviours. Alex also manages the Ashden Awards, celebrating the success of countless organisations across the globe who lead sustainable projects within their community. Ashden winners are saving more than 13 million tonnes of CO2 every year, improving the lives of over 88 million people.
In her early career, Alex was interested in natural processes and the interaction of people with the environment, looking at how organisations could implement sustainable behaviours to change their impact on the planet.
Alex said, “Twenty years ago, sustainability was not very mainstream. Climate change wasn’t taken seriously and it was a very different environment - sustainability was mostly a fringe sector. You had to explain what it was, and what you were doing. Most people’s perception of sustainable practice at that time was recycling.”
“Looking back over the past eight years, since I’ve been working at Ashden, the sustainability industry has become more conventional and more people are talking about climate change at a business level.”
“I love it when I see the schools I speak to just ‘get it’. When a small change (which might not have previously crossed their minds) makes an impact, they become inspired to do more. Small actions and grassroots organisations are at the heart of Ashden – brilliant ideas and solutions that need a platform to help them scale up. It’s heart-warming to watch the interaction between the different winners of the Ashden Awards. These are people from all around the world; from Indigenous organisations collecting seeds in the Amazon to those building sustainable homes in Nepal. They are all able to connect with each other through a common thread: sustainability and a just transition that leaves no-one behind.”
A woman in the sustainability industry
“I’m proud of the carbon emissions I’ve reduced by working with children in schools and being able to prove it’s made a difference. I’ve found the sustainability and charity sector to be gender aware and diverse. There’s a good representation of women - it is rare to sit in a room with all men now. For others looking to come into the sustainability sector, my advice is to just go for it.”
Sue Kinsella, Street Light Asset Manager for Kent County Council
After taking an interest in business in her early career and studying European business studies, Sue went on to work as an internal auditor in her local council, Thanet District Council. Following a few changes in her role, Sue joined Kent County Council and took on the management of the street lighting team and over 150,000 assets countywide, including illuminated bollards and streetlights.
Sue recently spearheaded the upgrade of over 120,000 outdated streetlights to LED and the installation of a Central Management System (CMS) over three years, in support of the council’s target to reduce their carbon emissions. The upgrades have saved the council an impressive 17,000 tonnes of CO2e annually and reduced their street lighting energy bills by approximately 67%. The council were able to make the improvements thanks to a £27m interest-free loan from Salix which was used to part-fund the £40m project.
Sue is striving to inspire other local authorities to follow suit and move towards the provision of LED street lighting, leading the way in limiting its effect on the environment.
Sue said, “I take pride in providing a good service to my customers. The council’s taxpayers expect an excellent delivery of service and I try to inspire this in my team. Since the installation of LED street lighting across the county, the number of enquires I receive from residents and visitors has reduced. I have a great relationship with partner organisations and work closely with the sustainability team to share knowledge. Due to the success of the LED conversion, I receive a lot of questions about sustainability and people are really eager to hear my ideas. Going forward, I’m keen to become involved in building a strategy for Kent County Council, looking at the possibility of taking a smart cities approach and installing innovative technologies.”
A woman in the engineering industry
“There aren’t many female managers in engineering. I’ve found the best mindset to have as a female in a role stereotypically male dominated is to have patience, be persistent and have perseverance. It’s important for women to be visible at school workshops, in the media and at career fairs. I think this can help the industry to be more accessible and gender equal. For people looking to enter a gender-biased industry, my advice is to be confident in yourself and don’t be put off by other people’s opinions. You are capable and can make a significant impact.”