Find women who are saving the world. That's the singular and vital mission of the Cartier Women's Initiative. This year, seven laureates - beacons of science, sustainability, technology, healthcare and more - have been named, including the very first laureate from Australia.
The Cartier Women's Initiative is a program that serves to identify future women leaders and their brilliant ideas in order to amplify them to the world. Since 2006 when the Cartier Women's Initiative was first incepted, the mission has been to "encourage inspirational women entrepreneurs worldwide to solve contemporary global challenges". It recognises women who work to find new and unique solutions to the world's very real bevy of problems, and use the platform of Cartier and its partners to elevate it to an international audience.
A field of over 1200 applicants lodged their names with the Cartier Women's Initiative for consideration. 21 finalists were selected, before 7 laureates were identified as the cream of the crop. And this year, for the very first time, Australia boasts its own Cartier Women's Initiative laureate.
Australia's first Cartier Women's Initiative laureate is the brilliant Joanne Howarth, founder of Planet Protector Packaging. Joanne coined an idea whereby wasted wool from sheep could be repurposed for the transport of temperature sensitive goods. That not only cuts down on harmful single-use plastics on an industry-level, but also cuts down on waste in the primary farming industries also.
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Joanne knew she needed to do something to change the status quo when in 2014 she worked in a logistics capacity with a meal box subscription service. At that time, she saw that literal truckloads of polystyrene - used for temperature control in transit - were being deposited into landfill. "I almost felt like I was singlehandedly destroying the planet," she said in an interview.
That's how she came up with the idea of Woolpack: an insulative polystyrene replacement made from non-textile grade wool with no added chemicals or toxins that are both compostable and biodegradable. It does the job of polystyrene in a way that's smarter for the planet.
So far, Joanne has kept 44 Olympic-sizes swimming pools-worth of compressed polystyrene out of landfill. And alongside the environmental dividends, Woolpack also allows Aussie farmers to make additional money from their wool during a challenging drought season. We agree that Joanne is a deserving laureate!
Other laureates include women like Anna-Sophie Hartvigsen who is working to help others with their personal finances; Nadia Gamal El Din who is supporting women's mental and developmental health with online and in-person programs; Chunguang (Charlotte) Wang who is using AI and big data to change the game on energy delivery, and Temie Giwa-Tubosun who is creating a system to deliver life-saving medication to the people of Nigeria. You can see all of the impressive laureates here.
Like all aspects of life, COVID-19 has also impacted Cartier's prestigious program. Other than disrupting its calendar of international events, COVID-19 has profoundly impacted the solutions applicants submitted to the independent, international jury. Cartier has called their fellows' ability to leverage or pivot their businesses to respond to COVID-19 both "critical and admirable".
Cyrille Vigneron, President and CEO of Cartier International, believes it is more important than ever during this difficult time to use the Cartier platform to elevate women entrepreneurs.
"More than ever, we remain committed to use our voice and actively support those who are trying to make the world a better place, which is the case of these outstanding women entrepreneurs. It has been incredibly inspiring to witness their determination, resilience and creativity. We are immensely proud of their work, and thankful for their global contribution to our society," he said.
The Cartier Women's Inititive laureates and finalists will all join a strategic networking community of powerful women from all over the world. As part of the program, each will receive mentoring; networking opportunities; executive education, and support for future strategic financial thinking to scale their business. The 7 laureates will also receive a US$100,000 grant to support their growth, while finalists will receive US$30,000 grants.
We're constantly astounded by the ingenuity of women such as the 2020 Cartier Women's Initiative laureates, and we can't wait to see how they continue to change the world in a wildly-challenging time.