She has the power: Women Leaders in Sustainability and Energy Transition

Flavia Sales, Marketing at Finboot
March 8, 2024

A just transition to net-zero is impossible without sustainable mindsets fuelling sustainable strategies. But who is responsible for shaping this thinking?

Research suggests women have a huge part to play. According to a 2021 GreenBiz Report, there has been a significant increase in women taking up sustainability leadership roles in recent years.

In 2011 for example - in the United States, “women held 28 per cent of chief sustainability officer positions, but by 2021, this had increased to 54 per cent.” This is a 94 per cent increase! Although this uptake seems a significant step in the right direction for sustainability, combatting climate change, and indeed female empowerment, the all-male COP29 committee suggests it is not the end of the journey but the beginning.  

Azerbaijan, the host country for COP29, initially appointed 28 men and no women to organise this year’s Climate Summit. This announcement – rightly – drew a powerful backlash.  It was hastily announced the committee would include 12 women.

Against this global microcosm, Finboot asked four senior female leaders in the tech sector about their experience around the existential issue of sustainability.  

The key point is all the female leaders interviewed expressed a huge determination to preserve our natural world.

The Fantastic Four Female Sustainability Leaders:

Natalia Ruiz Saez

Natalia’s background is in industrial engineering. She began at Spanish energy giant, Repsol, as a process engineer. Then, following a successful twenty years working at the multi energy company, she went on to lead Net Zero Ventures as Managing Partner. Net Zero Ventures' mission is to reduce carbon emissions through investing in new renewable energy / disruptive technologies. Natalia’s focus is seeking decarbonisation in mobility and industry.

Noslen Suarez Rojas

Noslen is a client facing Executive at Finboot. Noslen collaborates closely with leadership to champion sustainability, energy transition, and circularity within the organisation.

Deepa Poduval

Deepa Poduval is the Senior Vice President and Global Advisory Leader & Global Head of Sustainability at Black & Veatch.  Deepa has led the development of their sustainability strategy framework anchored around corporate, client and community focus areas for their actions and investments to advance sustainability.

Bettina Uhlich

Bettina Uhlich is a former CIO at a global leader in the sustainability in the chemicals sector.  She believes that leaders need to convince and encourage people to work towards a common goal: making sustainable decisions.

Challenges and Triumphs

For Natalia, the journey to net-zero presents both exciting challenges and opportunities. ‘The scale of investment needed is immense and the pace at which we need to reach net-zero should be fast. 2050 is the deadline, so ‘action must be taken swiftly and decisively.’

Deepa commented on the pace of progression towards finding sustainable solutions and said that ‘perhaps one of the biggest challenges is gaining organisational attention and access to resources especially given competing priorities.’

For Noslen, she has discovered the opportunity to influence the organisational mindset by facilitating discussions, providing insights on viable investments, and highlighting the business case for embracing environmental responsibility. If a business can be inspired to prioritise and allocate resources towards sustainable initiatives, this will inevitably build the company’s long-term resilience to climate change.

Bettina believes that short-sightedness is a luxury we cannot afford and said: ‘Climate change is the biggest global threat... it’s a huge investment and it starts in the mindset. Sustainable resource management is very expensive. The return on investment takes longer.’...  ‘Investment is always future-orientated and that’s why leaders need the courage to convince people to invest in sustainable solutions. As well as this, we need laws and regulations that force people to invest.’

Impact and Innovations

At Black & Veatch, Deepa has helped to deliver several groundbreaking projects in sustainable infrastructure. They have helped to construct ‘the world’s largest green hydrogen hub: Initially designed to convert over 220 MW of renewable energy to 100 metric tonnes per day of green hydrogen, which will then be stored in two massive salt caverns capable upon start up of storing more than 300 GWh of dispatchable clean energy, which is 150 times the current installed grid scale battery capacity!

Natalia has invested in several companies over the years, but Finboot holds a special place in her heart. ‘Finboot is backed by an exceptional team. When you combine great technology with a talented team, success and impactful outcomes are practically guaranteed.’

Bettina believes that partnerships and alliances create impact, especially when you encourage them to invest sustainably. But digital innovation is also required to create impact. ‘In the chemical industry, our consumers expect us to adhere to safe protection of data as well as a negative CO2 footprint. Blockchain is just one example of improving effectiveness and efficiency - creating safe ecosystems and cloud systems.’

Leadership and Empowerment

Natalia strongly recommends that women pursue roles in sustainability. It positively impacts the world, and this leads to a fulfilling and rewarding career. Her one piece of advice would be to recognise the power of collaboration and understand that this is what we need to achieve sustainability goals. Equally, collaboration must include everyone, meaning that inclusive and diverse working environments must be fostered.

Bettina has a powerful desire and motivation to inspire the next generation of girls and women. ‘I am a president of an initiative in Germany, Austria and Switzerland called: ‘She’s goes IT’. This involves partnering with schools and creating exercises for children (no code/low code exercises.) I also go into universities and offer discussions and support for academic pieces. I encourage women to be IT and software engineers. I coach and mentor more young females and say to them: “Don’t work harder, work smarter.” We offer special lessons to top female managers on how to promote themselves and be part of hard discussions.’

Deepa said: “Embrace agility, seek to learn from others and their lessons learned – the collective ecosystem is critical to success.  This is not a journey to take alone so build a network for your company.  Be patient and realistic about challenges along the way and don’t let perfection get in the way of progress.”

Embrace a sustainable mindset and new technology

Our fantastic four women agreed that digital innovation and sustainability are ‘inextricably interlinked.’ and that to fulfil sustainability goals, everyone must adapt and adopt this new technology. Companies who do not invest in sustainability today will face a huge disadvantage tomorrow. While initial investment to develop digital innovations is high, this should not dissuade investors from making financial decisions that will benefit future generations. The time to automate these processes is now, but leadership, collaboration and inclusion are essential components in making this happen.


Editor’s note: A huge thank you to the women who all shared their wisdom on sustainability, leadership, and digital innovation.