Greenpeace USA announced on May 6th that Annie Leonard, a veteran environmental campaigner and the creator of the influential 2007 web video The Story of Stuff, will become the organization’s next executive director. Leonard began her career at Greenpeace International in 1988 and is returning now to help the organization inspire and mobilize millions of people to take action to create a more sustainable future together.
Leonard’s abilities to build networks across communities and break down complex problems into simple stories will help Greenpeace expand the environmental movement to new communities and inspire people to rebuild our economic and political systems in ways that prevent catastrophic climate change, reach zero deforestation, and protect our threatened oceans.
“While the environmental challenges before us are daunting, I have never felt more optimistic about the collective effort to create a more sustainable world,” Leonard said. “There is a new environmental movement in this country that is growing stronger and more diverse every day, and I am honored to return to Greenpeace to help that movement grow even stronger,” Leonard said.
Leonard has over two decades of experience investigating and explaining the environmental and social impacts of our stuff: where it comes from, how it gets to us, and where it goes after we get rid of it. Her film, The Story of Stuff, blossomed into The Story of Stuff Project, which works to empower people around the globe to fight for a more sustainable and just future. The project has built a community of over half a million people and released 8 more videos since The Story of Stuff, which have been viewed over 40 million times and been incorporated into countless school and faith curricula. In 2010, Simon & Schuster published Leonard’s New York Times bestselling book, The Story of Stuff, which takes a deeper dive into the issues of the film.
A hallmark of Leonard’s work with The Story of Stuff Project has been her keen recognition that solving environmental crises requires working across a wide range of movements to fix economic and political systems that are currently dominated by corporations at the expense of people’s health.
“Annie brings a powerful set of skills and talents to a rapidly changing media and online environment,” said Karen Topakian, Board Chair of Greenpeace Inc. “Her stories explain the broken systems at the root of our environmental crises in simple ways that inspire all of us to work together to create a fairer, more sustainable world. She also brings with her powerful personal experience with direct action, a cornerstone of Greenpeace’s mission and identity.”
Leonard currently serves on the boards of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and Public Citizen and has previously served on the boards of the Grassroots Recycling Network, the Environmental Health Fund, Global Greengrants India, Greenpeace India, and the International Forum on Globalization. She earned her undergraduate degree at Barnard College, Columbia University and has a Masters in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University. During Leonard's tenure at Greenpeace, she was arrested for protesting a business that was exporting hazardous waste to South Africa under the apartheid regime, and dumping it in a black community. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and will lead the organization from Greenpeace’s San Francisco office.
Greenpeace has won a string of recent victories by mobilizing global networks of grassroots activists to push companies like Proctor & Gamble to break the link between its products and forest destruction, and Apple and Facebook to power their data centers with renewable energy. The organization is well-positioned both programmatically and financially as Leonard takes the helm, and Leonard intends to continue to carry forth the organizational tradition of bearing witness—that is, witnessing and sharing the environmental destruction not often seen by the public.
“Corporations can apply their ingenuity to environmental progress, not destruction, and we will keep working with a broad network of supporters and allied movements to push them to do the right thing,” Leonard said.
Leonard will begin in her new role in August.