The Rolex Awards for Enterprise
One of today’s most prominent environmentalists, Yolanda Kakabadse is widely recognized as a global champion of sustainable development and biodiversity preservation. “My heart is in nature conservation,” says Kakabadse, who has held numerous leadership positions in environmental protection over the course of her career. Having initially studied educational psychology, Kakabadse turned to conservation to protect nature as well as to improve the lives of rural people in her native Ecuador. In 1979, she became executive director of Fundación Natura in Quito, which under her direction for over a decade became one of the most influential environmental organizations in Latin America, contributing to policies promoting the sustainable use of natural resources. She rose to international prominence during the original Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, in 1992. The next year, Kakabadse created Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano, an organization dedicated to promoting sustainable development through conflict prevention and management. She served as the foundation’s executive president for 13 years before chairing its Advisory Board, a position she still holds. From 1996–2004, she also served as president of the World Conservation Union, now known as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the largest international network of biodiversity experts, and as Ecuador’s Minister of Environment (1998-2000). Since 2010, Kakabadse has held the post of president of WWF International, one of the biggest and most respected environmental organizations, with hundreds of offices around the world. For Kakabadse, sustainability is not a process. “It is a utopia in itself, the more you work towards it the more you have to do,” she says of her efforts to solve some of the most difficult environmental challenges with the help of the public and private sectors. In recognition of her unwavering commitment to nature conservation, she has received many distinctions, including the Global 500 Award of the United Nations Environment Programme (1991) and the Zayed Prize (2001).
Published in 2014