5 Women shaping Circular Economy

Let’s take the opportunity to celebrate all women playing a pivotal role in the progress toward a circular economy. From entrepreneurs and politicians to scientists and designers, women are making huge contributions to sustainable development. 

Here are only 5 of the most prominent thousands of females devoting themselves to circularity.


71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes, and 33 seconds: this is how long Ellen MacArthur took to circumnavigate the whole globe, becoming the fastest solo sailor to complete this journey. During her boat trips, Ellen witnessed firsthand the by far unsustainable levels of waste and pollution of our planet, and the resulting pressing environmental challenges facing the world today. Specifically, she could not remain indifferent to the vast amounts of plastic bottles, bags, and debris floating on the water’s surface: plastic pollution was hopelessly harming marine life and ecosystems. The “take-make-dispose” economic model was one of the primary causes of this problem and needed to be replaced. In 2010, she founded the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, becoming a leading voice in the circular economy movement. As a matter of fact, the Foundation inspired circular change in businesses, governments, and organizations all around the world, and contributed to research on circularity and policy implementation. Just think that the Foundation contributed to the development of the European Union’s Circular Economy Package, promoting a more circular approach to resource use and waste reduction in the EU.


Double the Jennifer, double the power. Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss are the founders of Rent The Runway: the leading clothing rental platform providing consumers simultaneously with a cost-effective and sustainable solution to show off the most iconic high-end looks. By allowing them to rent dresses for special occasions, RTR allows fashionistas to have high turnover fashion rates without harming the planet. Hyman and Fleiss have been particularly active in promoting circularity, and their vision was able to inspire other players in the industry to work for a more sustainable, equal and circular future. This is what led them in 2018 to being named in the TIME’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Specifically, Jennifer Hyman was also a board member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC): a leading organization in the apparel and footwear industry, working to reduce the dramatic environmental and social impacts of the industry. Here, she contributed to the development of the Higg Index: a reporting framework allowing and encouraging companies to disclose more information on their sustainability performances, thus fostering greater transparency and accountability in the fashion industry. Her co-founder, Jennifer Fleiss is continuing to contribute in a meaningful way to the circular economy, creating innovative and tech-driven solutions helping consumers to make more sustainable choices and companies to track products throughout their whole lifecycle, thanks to blockchain technology.


Food waste is one of the major problems of today’s society: consider that approximately one-third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted, while at the same time, 690 million people suffer from hunger. Mette Lykke is one of the most prominent female entrepreneurs battling food waste. In 2017, Mette co-founded the app Too Good To Go. Thanks to the app, restaurants, bars and supermarkets can sell surplus food that would otherwise go to waste, offering it at a discounted price to consumers. Since its launch, TGTG saved almost 50 million meals from waste, operating in 15 countries across Europe.


The well-known President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen made sustainability and the circular economy a top priority for the Commission, especially with the development and implementation of the European Green Deal. The latter is the ambitious plan aiming at making Europe the very first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Circular Economy is one of the key pillars of the Green Deal and promotes investments and innovation in this field. 


Did you know pineapple leaves can make a great alternative to leather? Carmen Hijosa, Spanish textile designer and entrepreneur, definitely had a great vision back when she was working in the Philippines in the 90s: she noticed that the pineapple industry produced abundant waste of leaves and began to search for new ways to give them a new purpose. After many years, Piñatex was born: a lightweight, durable, water-resistant and cruelty-free leather alternative that is nowadays being used to make products ranging from fashion clothes and accessories to furniture or car interiors. In 2013 she founded her company, Ananas Anam on a mission to create more sustainable and commercially viable alternatives to highly polluting traditional materials. The company also developed Desserto (a leather alternative made from mature leaves of cactus plants) and NatruePack (biodegradable packaging material made from corn starch, which breaks down naturally in the environment without leaving any harmful residue).

Arianna Ranieri

Arianna Ranieri is an Economics student, always looking forward to learn and gain experience, especially in the circular economy field. She pursues innovation and strive to be part of the change.