International Women’s Day – women in sustainability part two

A continuation of women in sustainability part one highlighting members of the Planet Mark community who have helped accelerate our shared goal to shape a brighter future.

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To mark International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating women in environment and sustainability from the Planet Mark community. We look at their determination to empower others through their reach and influence to shape a brighter future. You can read part one of our series released on 5 March 2021.

Pamela Stathaki, Head of Sustainability, The Marketing Store

Tell us a little about your background and your current role in sustainability?

I started my career as an Environmental Engineer at Dyson’s Research, Design and Development department focussing on integrating Sustainable thinking in the design process. I moved on to Ernst & Young providing sustainability assurance and advisory support to FTSE 350 companies.  

Before moving to The Marketing Store, my role was with GlaxoSmithKline in the Environmental Sustainability Centre of Excellence focusing on sustainable and responsible supply chain activities.

At The Marketing Store, I work with our researchers, developers, engineers and designers to find the right sustainable solution for the firm’s toys; all the while making sure the toys are safe, fun and as environmentally friendly as possible!

How will you continue to embed sustainability into organisational practices?

The most exciting and daunting part of working in sustainability is the realisation that your work is never finished and the need to pioneer in unchartered territory. My aim always is to challenge and question the norm which sometimes can be uncomfortable.  

At The Marketing Store we don’t have answers to everything. We are on a sustainability journey of discovery and are taking a holistic approach to understand our products’ impact as well as the Agency’s impact.  

The way I go about this is taking stakeholders along the journey, challenging design teams, education, getting people excited about sustainability, identifying sustainable solutions and exploring new innovative materials.  

What are some successes in your career that would inspire others and who inspires you?

I have had the privilege in working in great organisations and playing an instrumental role in achieving inspirational sustainability goals. More recently, I was humbled by the external recognition:

In this article, I celebrate inspirational Females combating climate change. Additionally, I am inspired by so many people in sustainability. Such as my colleagues I work with on a common goal, young environmental activists making their voices heard and the everyday consumer who demands brands to do more. There is inspiration everywhere.

When faced with challenges, how do you address them?

Staying positive, remembering why I got into this field in the first place and being persistent have helped me keep my passion alive. Specifically, when dealing with challenges I automatically go into solution mode. My first aim is to understand the reasons for the challenge, engage with key stakeholders or experts, find other routes to go around these obstacles and always take a pragmatic approach to create a mitigation plan. Sometimes accepting a defeat is the best course of action and revisiting the topic when timing is better.  

Why do you think inclusivity in sustainability is important?

A key element of sustainability is embracing diverse voices which support vulnerable communities who are dealing with increasing climate change challenges. For example, Christiana Figueres was instrumental along with other females in focusing on the gender dimension of Climate Change during Paris Climate Agreement.  

Specifically, in a corporate setting, inclusivity provides a variety of skills and perspective which can help drive sustainability ambitions. These types of ambitions cannot be met when we work in silos, therefore, creating a sense of belonging and connection through an inclusive work environment is of the utmost importance.  

What advice would you give to women who want to pursue a career in sustainability?

  • Passion: Follow your passion and you will succeed!
  • Purpose: Identify your purpose which will be your north star when dealing with challenges.
  • Perspective: Diverse skills, opinions and ideas are necessary in this field. Don’t be shy about bringing your unique voice and perspective to the table.
  • Positivity is key! Focus on the silver lining in every challenge and try to learn from failures.
  • Perseverance, persistence, and resilience pays off especially since sustainability professionals deal with many uphill battles.
  • Proactivity and courage in taking initiatives are necessary to driving change.

Any interesting sustainability readings/sources you would like to share?

There is such a wealth of sustainability information easily available; from books to podcast or even documentaries. Here are some of my suggestions:

Sustainability podcasts:

Sustainability readings:

My current wish list includes Bill Gate’s new book ‘How to avoid a climate disaster’.

What are your hopes for the future?

I hope that the learnings from the pandemic will not diminish and we just resume to how life was before Covid-19. Humanity lost so much during these difficult times, but we have also gained knowledge and most importantly perspective. We have had the opportunity to question our lifestyle decisions, prioritise what is important and mostly importantly realise that the natural environment doesn’t need us, we need it.  

I look forward to the UN’s COP26 Climate Summit in November in Glasgow in which hopefully country representatives will commit to the necessary changes to drive a global shift in carbon emission reduction.  

Dr. Rima Trofimovaite, Head of Certification (Interim), Planet Mark

Where did your passion for sustainability come?

I grew in a seaside town and spent most of my days on the beach as a kid. When I was very little my biggest treasures were to find either small pieces of amber after the storm, or colourful sea glass pieces. You know the ones, where broken glass ends up in water and over time is weathered and turned into smooth frosted pebbles. As time went by, I saw less and less of amber and so much more random trash artefacts being washed off from the sea like plastic bottles, toothbrushes, packaging and various other items. We always had a tradition in my family, each time we are on the beach, we collect all the rubbish that we see around us and take it to the bins on the way home.  

Also, my grandad was a botanist, he kept bees, a big apple garden and he planted so many trees around the city, even now, after 11 years when he is no longer with us, those avenues full of trees are growing tall and strong.

Why do you think inclusivity in sustainability is important?

I think like in any workplace or subject, inclusivity brings new ideas, develops growth mindset, and creates opportunities to see things from different perspectives. Diversity is vital, especially in sustainability. Sustainability requires engagement and involvement from all of us around the world – and only teams/companies who can appeal to this diverse audience are able to truly be heard and make a change.

What advice would you give to women who want to pursue a career in sustainability?  

If you are looking for a career with a strong purpose – a career in sustainability is the best place to be. But there is a catch – you must really believe and see the great potential of it, otherwise, it will be very hard. I would say be resilient, positive and ambitious and you will be unstoppable!

Hellen Stirling-Baker, Founder, Small Stuff UK  

Tell us a little about your background and your current role in sustainability?

I run an independent children’s lifestyle shop in Sheffield called Small Stuff UK. The focus and vision of this shop is to promote and sell beautiful eco-conscious products for babies and young children from brands which really care about environmental and ethical issues. I work with transparent and forward- thinking brands, so you won’t find any fast-fashion, unnecessary plastic or even ‘seasonal’ products in my store – just beautiful all-round eco-friendly keepsake gifts, toys, homeware and clothing which have been created with love for both our planet and everyone in the supply chain. Over the last two years I have been invited to share my passion and drive for sustainability within business at talks around the country and have recently been involved in supporting small business. 

Where did your passion for sustainability come from?

When I had my little boy in 2016 it really made me look at the world differently. Thanks to my parents I have always had an interest in sustainable practices in my personal life, from the simplest ideas of reusing carrier bags to recycling, to being interested in the beginnings of renewable energy providers, litter picking, and reducing where I could. However, when out shopping with my newborn, I had the sudden realisation I was purchasing for convenience over understanding. As a new parent, I was already being conditioned to buy incredibly cheap, convenient toys and clothes without any understanding or ‘back story’ of these products.

I started researching the cost and the manufacturing of these easily accessible products and started asking questions to these retailers and their suppliers. It opened a surprising amount of information, some of which I found incredibly shocking – from pay and rights of the workers through to the landfill, waste and the severe pollution in manufacturing. I knew from then on I wanted to create something that could in-turn eventually teach my son about waste and over-consumption. 

Over the last few years and with thanks to the incredible information that is available (such as the brilliant programmes narrated by Sir David Attenborough) our future generations are taking notice of what is happening. I saw an incredible opportunity – to passionately learn, promote and work with like-minded businesses whilst selling to like-minded people. 

How have and will you continue to embed sustainability into organisational practices?

Over the last couple of years, I’ve worked really hard to practice what I preach in the day to day running of the store too and I’m so passionate about continuously learning – my physical shop is now run on 100% renewable energy, my local deliveries are delivered by foot, bike or electric vehicle and we reuse or recycle all our packaging (over 70% gets reused). I continue to work openly and closely with my suppliers to ensure we have as little plastic waste as possible and Terra Cycle to promote their recycling schemes, including Ella’s kitchen pouches, whilst raising money for charities such as The Marine Conservation Society.  For the last two years Small Stuff UK has been shortlisted for The Modern Retail Sustainability Award. 

Even during these difficult times for retailers like mine, sustainability and cementing the vision and transparency of my brand is at the forefront of what I do and in 2020 Small Stuff UK become the first children’s store in the UK to be Planet Mark certified. By continuously making even the littlest of changes in the day to day running of my shop – I hope to have hit our target this year too. 

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them? 

The biggest challenge for any independent retailer like mine has of course been the pandemic over the last 12 months – this meant quickly adapting, pivoting and changing Small Stuff’s trading and business model almost overnight. However, what has never changed are the values that are important to my brand – that people and planet always come above profit. In these difficult and uncertain times, this could have been particularly challenging whilst trying to stay afloat when reduced footfall and closures have meant less sales. But, continuing to be clear and transparent with Small Stuff’s values to both customers and suppliers during this period has meant that my business has continued to trade. Talking to likeminded customers and professional contacts inspires me to continue my passion for my work and what I have created.

What are your hopes for the future?

The pandemic has forced many of us to change our ways, from less driving to less consumption and this has often meant when shopping, we have a more considered approach. Many customers are turning to sustainably sourced and local produce and products and it’s great to see purpose driven businesses are on the rise – I hope this positive change continues.

Any interesting sustainability readings/sources you would like to share?

Yes! For anyone who is interested in the nitty gritty of sustainability and business, I absolutely recommend these really great and informative professional networking and support hubs;  Women in Sustainability ( and #Ethical Hour ( both of which support with ‘Big Why’ businesses who are passionate about the environment and positive change. 

Rebecca Wilson, Partner, Ingram Valley Farm

Tell us a little about your background and your current role in sustainability.

I used to work for Humdinger as their Tesco National and European Account Manager working with global brands such as Ocean Spray before embarking on a career in sustainability as a business partner at Ingram Valley Farm with my husband Ross and father-in-law Johnny Wilson. Ingram Valley Farm has been farmed sustainably for over 6,000 years!

Where did your passion for sustainability come from?

My son, who is a big fan of Sir David Attenborough, said to me ‘Mummy do you realise that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish?!’ I realised there and then that as individuals and companies we can do something about this. We have since switched from using plastic toothbrushes to bamboo toothbrushes. We try to wear recycled clothing or clothing made from wool where possible. Wool is 100% naturally biodegradable whereas synthetic fibres in some fast fashion clothes can sit in landfills for over 100 years. We also work with Newcastle University on the ways we can reduce the use of plastic in food packaging.

How have and will you continue to embed sustainability into organisational practices?

We have invested in electric cars and renewable energy. We’ve diversified and developed an online home-delivery platform hosted in a green-data centre, powered by 100% renewable energy with Planet Mark partner Erjjio Studios. The farm has now saved the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling water for 13,112 cups of tea and enough energy to drive an electric car 1,304m. We now also use the Ecosia platform which helps plant trees in order to help reduce digital footprint and carbon emissions as well as planting our own trees and hedgerows here on the farm. We will continue to embed new sustainability practices by working with Planet Mark and other members of the Planet Mark Community.

When faced with challenges, how do you address them and what keeps your passion alive?

I am very passionate about The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. They are integrated within our business and the organisations we work with such as Planet Mark and Newcastle University. We put particular focus on United Nations Goal 2 as we aim to help end hunger, achieve good food security, improve nutrition and to promote sustainable agriculture. During the Covid-19 pandemic we worked with Planet Mark members Fooditude and Cool Earth as well as The Local Heroes North East Team and Food Nation to help get food and supplies to some of the most vulnerable in society. One of the highlights was making sure vulnerable people had a nice Easter meal by the amazing team at Fooditude.

Why do you think inclusivity in sustainability is important?

The ‘A Climate for Crisis’ report by The Fairtrade Foundation recommends that government and businesses ensure that producers who grow food receive the finance they need to move to a low-carbon economy and adapt to the changing climate. A trade policy that supports the highest environmental standards, reduces carbon footprint, encourages fair trading practices, and helps low-income countries and communities. For example, through Planet Mark’s partnership with Cool Earth, we have helped donate and in turn get food, medicine and supplies to indigenous communities in the Peruvian rainforest by protecting an acre of the rainforest.  

Any interesting sustainability readings/sources you would like to share?

My book recommendation is ‘Holistic Management’ by Allan Savory. Healthy soil and land management can help reverse climate change. Linking tradition, science, and knowledge at a local level all the way to a global level. “Agriculture is not crop production as popular belief holds – it’s the production of food and fibre from the world’s land and waters. Agriculture is the foundation of civilization and any stable economy’. My film recommendation is ‘Kiss the Ground’ with my favourite supermodel Gisele! The Kiss The Ground Movie on Netflix shows Science experts and Women discuss the ways that the earth’s soil may be able to help reverse climate change and help the planet.

What are your hopes for the future?

To help reverse climate change through sustainable agriculture and to make the countryside more inclusive and accessible for people with disabilities. It is our hope to build the first wheelchair accessible bunkhouse in the UK this year and work on sustainable farm tours with wheelchair access so that people with disabilities can also enjoy more of the countryside, nature and the planet.