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Ame Igharo, EDF+Business

March 8, 2022
Ame Igharo
This International Women’s Day (IWD) and Women’s History Month, we interviewed outstanding sustainability leaders around the world. Read the profile of Ame Igharo, Project Manager focusing on Resilient Food and Forests at EDF+Business.

The individuals we’ve interviewed come from a variety of backgrounds and their areas of expertise and responsibility are equally diverse. We’ve learned a lot from them in these conversations and are excited to follow their progress.

Q: Hello! Tell us a little about what you do at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). 

A: I’m a Project Manager focusing on Resilient Food and Forests at EDF+Business, EDF’s corporate engagement arm. EDF+Business works to create a more sustainable world where companies, communities and the environment thrive by partnering with leading companies to accelerate progress on climate. Within this team, I work with leading food and agriculture companies, such as Tyson and Walmart, to raise the bar on climate leadership and to improve environmental and community health outcomes. We do this by getting companies to set ambitious goals, collaborate for scale, accelerate environmental innovation and advocate for climate policy. 

Q: Why did you choose to work in this position and space? 

A: I started out my career in marketing, specifically on the consumer goods side. I first launched products onto the US market at L’Oreal and eventually developed and launched new brands and products globally at Elizabeth Arden. I loved this work. There was something magical about seeing an idea on a piece of paper turn into a physical product that customers love. 

However, I’ve always wanted to do work that allowed me to answer bigger questions. I see sustainability as an opportunity to do transformative future thinking and working at a non-profit like EDF is a unique place to do that because of our pragmatic approach: we leverage the power of the marketplace to drive environmental results. Because ultimately, a thriving economy depends on a thriving environment. 

A question I especially want to answer is “how can we transform the way our food is made and sold?” We all have to eat, that’s what makes this issue so tangible. But, more personally, as someone who grew up in a multicultural household with a Jamaican-American mother and a Nigerian father, food, for me, is about community, culture and history. 

Q: What are some opportunities and challenges you face in your sustainability role? 

A: Agricultural supply chains are incredibly large and complex, making it difficult for companies to know where the impact is. But collaborating with all along the supply chain is key. This also requires a great deal of translating technical data into accessible information, and in doing so, also make the business case for how prioritizing environmental outcomes can actually translate to better financial performance. 

Q: What skills do you think are particularly vital for you in your sustainability role? 

A: As a marketer I developed both strategic and executional skills as well as qualitative and quantitative skills. I also learned the soft skills of building relationships with people all across an organization, getting their buy-in on a vision and working together towards a common goal. All of this comes into play in my current day-to-day work in different ways.

Q: What other teams do you work with closely or rely on to be successful at EDF? 

A: My work and success relies on the support of my teammates on the larger Resilient Food and Forest team, as well as the EDF+Business team more broadly. It also requires collaboration with EDF’s scientists, economists, policy analysts and communications specialists in order to understand, for example, the science, its implications and applications in the real world. 

Q: What are some trends you’re seeing in the sustainability space? 

A: The growth in the number of sustainability roles is such an exciting trend. Even just five years ago, sustainability was a small, often underfunded and siloed team in an organization. Today, companies of all sizes across all industries have sustainability teams that are integrated throughout the organizations – in finance, marketing, sourcing and many others. Sustainability is being included in the job descriptions and responsibilities of other roles and functions in an organization outside of the sustainability department. It’s exciting to see how all these players can work cross-functionally together on climate issues. 

Q: Who are your role models? 

A: Like most, I am inspired by the women at the forefront of sustainability globally such as Dr Jane Goodall, Peggy Shepard co-founder and executive director of WE ACT For Environmental Justice and Ada Osakwe the founder and CEO of Agrolay Ventures. 

In my day-to-day work however, I draw inspiration from the visionaries and leaders that I am surrounded by — both my current and former colleagues. 

Q: What advice would you give to the next generation of women+ starting their careers in this space? 

A: Firstly, don’t be afraid to think big and boldly and challenge the status quo – this work requires it. 

Secondly, you need to build networks that will not only help you grow professionally but also personally – as an Environmental Leadership Program Senior Fellow my cohort has been invaluable for both, as have my networks from undergraduate and graduate school. Remember that how much you get from your networks very much depends on how much you give, so invest in others. 

Thirdly, you don’t have to work in the sustainability department to have an impact. Every role in any organization can have a sustainability component – think about the sustainability issues that impact your work and what role you can play in driving action on those issues. Lastly, celebrate your strengths and what you uniquely bring to the table. 

Q: What can organizations do to hire, retain, promote and empower more women+ in the sustainability space? 

A: Firstly, you need to make sure your house is in order first. You can’t truly be a leader in a more sustainable world if you don’t do the work to tackle harassment, racism and pay equity within your own organization. 

Secondly, you have to be willing to think outside the box when hiring. Too much time is spent looking for people with the exact skills and experiences on the list. Often though the best employees are ones that have transferable skills that they can adapt to new environments.

Thirdly, companies should broaden their definition of good leadership to one that recognizes humility and vulnerability as valuable traits.

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About the author

This article features expertise and contributions from many specialists in their respective fields employed across our organization.