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Year In Review: 2019’s Biggest Sustainable Trailblazers

Climate change has been the most heated topics in the recent years, but felt even more so this year. Whether it was the United States of America’s formal withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, the environmental campaign group ‘Extinction Rebellion’ wanting to shut down London Fashion week or the quality of air in the Indian capital reaching hazardous levels — 2019 has been the wake up call we didn’t know we needed. Amidst all the alarming news, this year has also shone a bright spotlight on the ones who’ve been the voice of reason. 

Greta Thunberg 

Whether the subject of headlines, memes or Twitter battles, Greta Thunberg has been this year’s biggest newsmaker. The 16 year old Swedish teen started her journey on climate activism a year ago when she launched the "Fridays For Future" movement by staging a strike for two weeks outside the Swedish parliament, urging them to cut carbon emissions by 15% annually. Now, a global face championing climate change, Greta has been recently awarded Time Magazine’s ‘People of the Year’ for 2019 in addition to her International Children's Peace Prize in November are just a few of her many 

notable accolades. She has effectively spoken at climate rallies across Europe, attended the United Nations COP24 in Poland where she addressed the Secretary-General with a speech that went viral, after which she was invited to the World Economic Forum in Davos where her talks made a worldwide impact yet again. If her journey has been any indicator, it's evident that being the voice of change for something positive can most certainly have a ripple effect. 

Yvon Chouinard 

Earlier this year, outdoor brand Patagonia won the United Nation’s top environmental laureate — 2019 Champion of the Earth Entrepreneurial Vision and it came as no surprise. For anyone acquainted with brands that are leading the sustainable movement, knows that Patagonia started with a green vision long before that very mission broke out as a trend. Before it became a household name in USA, Patagonia was a small Californian outfitter of climbing tools, set up in 1973. Yvon Chouinard, the brand’s founder and an accomplished rock climber, has since gone from selling hand-forged mountain climbing gear to becoming the largest supplier of climbing hardware and clothing in the US. “We’re in business to save our home planet”, Patagonia’s recently updated mission statement asserts to reflect the urgency of the environmental crisis. The brand has constantly embraced the B Corporation movement, while Chouinard led efforts like a voluntarily imposed 1% "earth tax" on Patagonia that donates 1% of its profits to grassroots 

environmental organisations that has raised more than $225 million since 2002. At 81 years, Chouinard is more focused than ever on leading by Patagonia’s example, the lengths a company can go to protect the planet. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 

The second-most talked about politician in America after Donald Trump this year has been Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the US Democratic Party. In 2018, she became the youngest woman to serve in the United States Congress, winning the race for New York's 14th district at just 29 and has ever since become the beacon of political hope. Having only begun her tenure this year, Cortez has been making strides by passing the much talked about ‘Green New Deal’ resolution that sets out the many steps that US needs to take to avoid climate catastrophe by creating millions of high-wage jobs in new green industries, transitioning the energy system and building new infrastructure. Most of America had never heard of a Green New Deal until Cortez proposed it last year. Since then, the plan now adopted has gone on to gain mainstream attention with climate change becoming a largely talked about issue across the the US. At 30, for someone who worked as a waitress and bartender just a little over a year ago, Alexandria is only getting started in her conscious political career. 

Sudha Murty 

Celebrated author and chairperson of the Infosys Foundation, Sudha Murty is synonymous with all things charity and social work. The Infosys Foundation, led by Murty, comprises a team of eight people only and has an annual budget of Rs 400 crore, who’s work is largely focused on sectors such as healthcare, education, public hygiene and empowerment of women. This year, they spent INR 342 crores towards various schemes of Corporate Social Responsibility. The Foundation’s other works include restoration of water bodies in Karnataka among several other states, supporting the construction of infrastructure like metro stations in Bengaluru and enabling the pursuit of access and excellence in sports through the GoSports Foundation. For Sudha Murty, CSR is metaphorically comparable to Mother Nature, as nature teaches us to share and give back — it is her humble belief that businesses should also have the philosophy of giving back to the society. 

Published by: Vibhuti Vazirani/ 2019-12-24

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