In Spotlights

Vanessa Forbes – Worldwide Sustainability Communications Lead, HP Print

Vanessa Forbes leads sustainability communications at HP Inc., driving strategic programming and initiatives at a worldwide level. She evolves the communication narrative, while pursuing sustainability goals within HP’s print landscape. Prior to HP, she was vice president of Edelman’s social innovation team, leading public relations for a portfolio of propose driven clients. Vanessa has directed corporate social responsibility strategies within Fortune 100 companies in technology, consumer goods, the built environment and renewables. Previously, Vanessa has worked for Apple and Coca-Cola in sustainability, as well as a trader of organic commodities. She holds an MBA in sustainable management from Presidio Graduate School.  Her passion for the environment extends deeply into outdoor activities, especially skiing and fly fishing. Her cattle dog, Mocha, joins her and her husband in wilderness adventures.

How did you become interested in environmental work?

I grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania where I spent the vast majority of my childhood exploring the outdoors. I had an appreciation of natural beauty from a youth spent roaming through the woods, fishing with my father and jumping in lakes. Where this beauty began to deteriorate for me was in the abandoned coal mines scattered in a nearby town aptly named Carbondale, where my grandparents lived. Not only were the black debris scattered fields evidence of a past industry that dried up a local economy, but they were also a reminder of how human carelessness can have devastating multi-generational effects on the land and its people. I always knew I wanted my work to have a direct connection to preserving our natural world.

From my very first job out of college, I have stayed true to that commitment.

What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?

Something I hear often as a challenge for women seeking careers in sustainability is that you can’t make a livable salary. This just simply isn’t the case. As demand grows for expertise in this field, so do the opportunities and the paychecks. You don’t have to be broke to call yourself a worthy environmentalist. Spend some time crafting your niche and success will follow, however you define it.

As a woman, I’m guilty of wanting to “do it all,” while doing it damn near close to perfection. Compounded with a desire to have every purchase, every bite of food, every everything be sustainable, the guilt of failure is even more extreme as an environmentalist. We often take the burden of the world on our shoulders. I constantly remind myself that perfect is the enemy of good. We cannot go it alone for this very reason, we need to get and give support to our fellow women and neighbors.

What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector of the environmental movement?

WEN is all about having a space for women to tell their story – so we can all learn and grow. I look at storytelling as a vehicle to communicate one’s vision for a more sustainable future. It’s why I work in the field of communications. Storytelling is one way you inspire others to act – to feel emotion for a cause, to find a reason to seek change, to bring deeper meaning to the “why.” Without it, the environmental movement perhaps would not be as successful – we would all operate in our own tiny siloes instead of coming together with a shared sense of purpose and devotion.

You don’t have to work in sustainability to have an impact. You just need enough guts to get out there and speak your truth to the world. Don’t just tell others why they should care, show them why. Create a story, YOUR story, that is meaningful enough that others will listen.

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