Women in Sustainability – Frances Buckingham

In the latest of our series ‘Women in Sustainability’, we interviewed Frances Buckingham, an independent sustainability consultant, researcher and writer.

Meet her here..


1.    As a change maker within your industry, tell us a bit more about your background?

Much of my career has been spent advancing environmental and social change in leading multinationals. I started work at SustainAbility when it felt like corporate responsibility was still in its infancy, now as a freelance Associate I continue to edit the organisation’s quarterly magazine Radar. I develop content and communications for organisations that are looking to do business differently. I recently completed a PG Cert. in Media, Campaigning and Social Change (I have a Masters in Environmental Assessment and Management) and I am particularly interested in how business, through campaigns and advocacy, can be agents of social change.


2.    What are the challenges you’ve had to overcome to get you where you are today and how did you address them?

Having a family, even when in a most supportive workplace, is hard. You want to be there for your children, but equally need to focus on your career.  Going freelance has allowed me to weave together a portfolio of paid and voluntary work that reflects who I am and gives me the time I need, at the moment, for my family.


3.    What would you do differently if you could?

Believing earlier that I could be an activist. When I was a child we used to sometimes drive past the Women’s Peace Camp at Greenham Common. I would look with awe at those women, but always with the thought: “I can’t be that; that is not who I am”. As inspirational as the women were, I have come to realise that direct action is just one form of change-making. To care about an issue and have a small amount of time and energy to put towards that concern is equally important. Small acts can make an activist; small acts together can create a powerful movement for change.


4.    What keeps you motivated and positive when things get tough?

Remembering that change takes time but does happen. Look at what is happening on plastics, yes it has taken too long and much more needs to be done, but the hard work of many different organisations, with varied approaches to the issue has resulted in significant shifts in government and corporate policy.


Also, I never forget that it is an absolute privilege to work in this field. To be able to do purposeful work that may be frustrating but is always stimulating, challenging and gives me the opportunity to work with talented and committed individuals, keeps me motivated.


5.    What advice would you give women who want to leave the corporate world and set up on their own?

Don’t just think about paid work, see it as an opportunity to pursue some of the projects that you may not have had time for when in an organisation that can help broaden your network. I have become a Trustee at the London Sustainability Exchange and also helping a couple of campaigning groups, including Mums for Lungs that is pushing for improved air quality in London. With two children growing up in the city air pollution is a real concern of mine. It is rewarding to spend time on these projects and the work often fills the gaps between paid jobs. Also find support networks, Women in Sustainability and the like are great, and can be useful reminder that what we all have in common is our insecurities and vulnerabilities, wherever we are in our careers.


6.    Who inspires you and why?

Sustainable development is such a huge collective endeavour. I am inspired by all those people who stick at it, who are quietly and determinedly working towards a more environmentally just and inclusive society. Whether they are championing change within business or putting pressure our institutions to act, every small gain is step towards a better, cleaner, healthier and fairer world.



If you would like to be featured here (or can recommend someone) please email us and state in no more that 200 words why she should be featured.  Key criteria for being selected:

  • Offers insightful commentary on the above questions.
  • Has a breadth/ depth of experience to share.
  • Allows us to cover new areas/ sectors/ roles of ‘women in sustainability’.
  • Can provide high quality recent head shot.