Three remarkable women were honored with the 2023 Pure Earth “Force of Nature” Award in a special live stream program on International Women’s Day on March 8, hosted by Emmy-award winning NBC News 4 reporter Sarah Wallace, with special appearances by U.S. Rep Debbie Dingell, and former U.S. EPA administrator Carol Browner. Pure Earth, a global nonprofit focused on solving the pollution crisis in low- and middle-income countries, marks International Women’s Day each year to raise awareness about pollution’s outsized, yet under-recognized, impact on women, and on maternal and child health.
This year, Dani Cutler, Marketing Manager at Hoover & Strong, a leader in responsible sourcing in the jewelry industry, will be honored along with Karen Mathiasen, the former Acting Executive Director of the World Bank Group, for bringing attention to pollution’s impact in the global development agenda, and Alicia Ogawa, a business leader committed to encouraging companies and investors to include pollution in their Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) initiatives.
Pollution is the largest environmental cause of death and disease in the world today but it has an outsized impact on women because of traditional gender roles, societal restrictions, a lack of opportunities, and poverty. Pollution’s impact on maternal and child health affects entire communities and can span generations.
Pregnant women can transmit toxins to their infants in utero and via breast milk. Toxic exposures have been linked to preterm births, infant mortality and developmental disabilities. Lead and mercury are increasingly making their way into kitchens around the globe through baby food, tuna, spices and cookware.
Pure Earth’s experts report that once educated on the dangers and sources of toxins, it is often the women in the community who take charge and push for change to protect their children. They are among the most vocal and active advocates, participating in workshops learning how to clean up pollutants, reduce exposures, and make work practices safer.
The three Force of Nature honorees are representative of the efforts of countless women around the world working every day to solve pollution, protect their families and communities, and advocate on behalf of the most vulnerable. They have each led the fight in their own sectors, crafting solutions in government and policy making, private entrepreneurship, and philanthropy to raise awareness and implement practical solutions to urgent environmental health issues impacting women and children.
Pure Earth’s 2023 Honorees are:
“There is nothing more effective than trying to spark change from the inside and that is exactly what Dani is doing. She is the one I see who shows up at every meeting to educate jewelers and others in our industry. This means scores of people are learning about the importance of demanding gold that’s mined without the use of mercury, that’s less harmful to people and planet, and that supports remediation. When it comes to the gold supply chain, Dani is most definitely a part of the solution,” says Christina Malle, goldsmith and advocate, recipient of the 2022 Force of Nature award.
Dani Cutler is the marketing manager at Hoover and Strong, one of the country’s leading manufacturers of environmentally and socially responsible jewelry products. She has been a driving force behind Hoover and Strong’s commitment to sourcing gold mined without mercury, and she helped to establish the company as a top supplier of responsible artisanal gold. With artisanal and small-scale gold mining identified as the largest source of global mercury emissions, Dani’s efforts to move the industry towards mercury-free gold supply chains is crucial. She has supported the Pure Earth Pure Gold Auction since its inception, and her outreach has increased awareness of the importance of reducing the environmental and health impacts of gold mining.
“Karen is a trailblazer who has been instrumental in getting pollution into development agendas and helping to spur action around the world. With pollution confirmed as the largest environmental cause of death and disease in the world today, Karen can see the big picture, and the bold steps that need to be taken at the policy level to protect women and children from being poisoned. Karen Mathiasen is a true Force of Nature,” says Drew McCartor, Executive Director, Pure Earth.
Karen Mathiasen is the former Acting Executive Director, World Bank Group; Commissioner, The Lancet Commission on pollution and health; Senior Program Officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She is a former U.S. senior civil servant who worked in the U.S. Treasury in the Office of International Affairs under Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama. She ran several regional offices covering the Middle East and North Africa, South and Central Asia, and Central and Southeastern Europe. Karen also spent six years during the Obama Administration heading the Office of Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) and served as senior advisor and Acting U.S. Executive Director (ED) of the World Bank. While at the U.S. Treasury, Karen became a strong supporter of Pure Earth’s work, and she later organized a major event on pollution and health at the World Bank with then President Jim Kim. In 2017 She served on The Lancet Commission, which produced the first ever comprehensive report on the impact of pollution on health. She also served as inaugural Chair of the Board of the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP).
“As an expert in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) corporate framework, Alicia brings a critical perspective to boardrooms as one of the few experts out there talking about pollution prevention and environmental health as a critical social issue that investors need to be monitoring and proactively addressing. She is a trusted advisor to many investors and corporate executives striving to employ and promote sustainable and ethical business practices,” says Richard Fuller, President, Pure Earth.
Alicia Ogawa is the director of the Nippon Active Value Fund; and director of the Project on Japanese Corporate Governance and Stewardship at Columbia Business School’s Center on Japanese Economy and Business, and an assistant adjunct Professor at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. Since 2008, Alicia has been a consultant to one of the largest U.S.-based activist hedge funds. Until 2006, she was managing director at Lehman Brothers, where she was responsible for managing the firm’s global equity research product. Previously, Alicia spent 15 years in Tokyo, where she was a top-rated bank analyst and director of research for Nikko Salomon Smith Barneys. She is a member of the International Corporate Governance Network, and a member of the Pure Earth Board.
About Pure Earth
Pure Earth is a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to saving and improving lives and protecting the planet by reducing disease-causing pollution and cleaning up toxic hot spots in low- and middle-income countries. Since its inception in 1999, Pure Earth and its field teams have completed more than 120 projects in 27 countries using best-in-class science, analytics, and engineering practices to identify toxic hot spots and teach communities how to improve soil, water, and air quality with pragmatic, cost-effective solutions. Pollution is the largest environmental cause of death and disease in the world, stealing 9 million lives each year, and disabling hundreds of millions of children. Pure Earth prioritizes actions that protect the developing brains and bodies of children and pregnant women living in toxic hot spots with a specific emphasis on lead and mercury exposure. Partnering with governments, communities, and industry leaders, Pure Earth aims to elevate pollution as a global priority, create sustainable change, and support a healthier future. www.pureearth.org