In celebration of Women’s Month in August, we look to some of the female board members on the Green Building Council South Africa for their insights on climate action, and leadership in this space.

of change

Sustainability is increasingly becoming a part of government policy. South Africa has set a target of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with a goal of reducing emissions by 28% by 2025, and by 42% by 2030, compared to the country’s emission levels in 2005. This target was announced as part of the country’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), submitted under the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2021.

As these dates draw closer, we asked six of the women on the GBCSA board: “How can we encourage more women to get involved in climate action and take on leadership roles in this area?”

Chief Sustainability Officer, Redefine Properties

“This is a fast-paced and exciting space where women will have an increasingly important role to play as leaders and champions of change. To accelerate these moves, companies should consider offering bursaries to young women to study further in STEM [science, mathematics, engineering and technology] fields, and also in other disciplines that can provide a firm foundation in climate science. Experts in this area should mentor and encourage young women to pursue green jobs and sustainability-related roles.
“From a leadership perspective, boards and executive directors should elevate the strategic importance of women who take up roles in sustainability by actively involving them in the formulation and execution of business strategy and avoid pigeon-holing them into one-dimensional or siloed roles.”

If we don’t help shape the future we want, then the one we get will be worth significantly less.
Head of Finance and Operations, Green Building Council South Africa

“Womens’ voices are underrepresented when it comes to global issues like climate change. To combat this, we should create a space where women are encouraged and inspired to engage in climate action. By ensuring equal opportunity in leadership roles, we can empower more women to get involved in climate action and be part of transforming our planet’s future.

“We need to make sure that women are included in climate-related discussions and have their voices heard. We need to drive funding and support for women-led climate initiatives. And we need to provide education and training programmes to develop leadership skills for women. In addition, each one of us can create awareness around, and drive climate action in, our own circles – whether we’re women or not!”

Lisa Reynolds
CEO, Green Building Council South Africa

“Roles and careers within the sustainable development space have always been ideal for women. An example of this is the high number of female Accredited Professionals within the green built environment – many of them in leadership roles. So, the question is – how do we expand on this?

“Climate Action is a broad opportunity that needs to be divided into definitive prospects. There are many female graduates who have completed environmental studies and engineering who want to be practically involved in climate change mitigation, but they don’t know where or how to apply their learnings. We need to share the definitive prospects among South Africa’s potential entrepreneurs. Challenges to entry must be reduced and – I believe – leadership will follow.”

Joanne Solomon
Chief Executive Officer, SA REIT Association

“As the real estate sector strives to achieve the ambitious goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the pivotal role of women in driving this transformation cannot be overlooked. Women bring diverse skills, innovative thinking and a collaborative approach to addressing environmental challenges in the real estate sector.

“Recognising their unique perspectives and capabilities, industry leaders emphasise the need to empower women and promote their leadership in sustainability initiatives. Through inclusive decision-making, targeted investments and mentorship programmes, the industry aims to harness the potential of women leaders in building a sustainable and resilient future.”

Women in sustainability roles should be actively involved in the formulation and execution of business strategy.
CEO, National Business Initiative (NBI), formerly Chief Sustainability Officer, JSE

“It is already firmly established that diversity on boards, in all its forms – including gender diversity – is closely associated with the better performance of companies. Women are disproportionately affected by the increasingly frequent and severe effects of climate change, so having their voices and inputs on achieving net zero is critical if we are to have outcomes that support a just transition to a low-carbon future.

“At every level of leadership and in every context, an explicit effort needs to be made to include women. Women in turn should themselves seek out the platforms where actions are being decided on, and actively help provide a consistent and credible signal to our markets, investors and international partners that a net-zero and climate-resilient economy and society is our defining context for economic growth and social inclusion. If we don’t help shape the future we want, then the one we get will be worth significantly less.”

Chief Operating Officer, Remote Metering Solutions (RMS)

“To achieve South Africa’s net zero targets, it is imperative to encourage women’s active participation and leadership in climate action. Promoting equal access to education, especially in STEM fields, is key to expediting women’s advancement into leadership positions, harnessing their passion and capabilities.

“Mentorship programmes and networking opportunities can further empower aspiring women leaders, while highlighting female role models and success stories inspires others to follow suit. Fostering supportive and inclusive environments, addressing gender biases, and collaborating with women-led organisations create spaces for women’s voices to be heard and valued. As the bedrock of families and communities, women spur a transformative impact that ripples across society towards a more sustainable future.”