Molly Harriss Olson is CEO of Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand and an internationally-recognised leader in global sustainability with experience spanning over 30 years.
Ms Olson has led Fairtrade’s work to strengthen Asia-Pacific markets and regional Fairtrade supply chains, growing Fairtrade revenue and bolstering environmental and economic sustainability practices within the Fairtrade system.
Previously Ms Olson served on the Board of Fairtrade International for nearly six years and as its Chair for the final two. During this time she played a pivotal role in passing a new Constitution providing half ownership to Fairtrade producers and workers and improving governance of Fairtrade internationally.
Ms Olson’s work has been at the forefront of leadership on sustainable business and development for three decades. Her previous roles include Director and Co-Founder of Eco Futures, an Australian-based international policy firm working on building sustainable strategies with business, government and civic leaders, Founder and Convenor of the National Business Leaders Forum on Sustainable Development, President and CEO of The Natural Step USA, a non-profit environmental education organisation working with business leaders, and Co-Founder of Earthmark. She has convened, led and been a member of numerous business leadership and sustainability initiatives. She brought Al Gore to Australia for his first visit as the keynote at the National Business Leaders Forum on Sustainable Development in 2003 and was the US representative on the steering committee of Sweden-based organisation, The Natural Step International.
Ms Olson worked in the White House during the time of President Clinton as the Founding Executive Director of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development. Appointed by President Clinton in 1993, the 25 member Council was a ground-breaking partnership whose membership came from high-ranking representatives of industry, government, environmental, labour and civil rights organisations. The Council was commissioned to develop a broad-based national action strategy on sustainable development and in March 1996 submitted its report, Sustainable America: A New Consensus, to President Clinton.
Ms Olson previously served on the Boards of The Australia Institute, Global Action Plan, the Green Building Council of Australia, the AMP Sustainable Investments Alpha Advisory Board, Australia 21, Clean up the World, Clean up Australia, “G” Magazine Editorial Board, and was the Founding Chair of the Editorial Advisory Board of Ecos Magazine (CSIRO Publishers).
Molly has also served on the Australian Building Energy Council, the Environment Management Industry Association of Australia, the Australian National Committee for the Earth Charter, the International Advisory Council for the Foreign Policy Association (NY), and the Premier’s Climate Council of Queensland under the Hon Anna Bligh.
At the age of 35 Ms Olson was selected to be a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Leaders for Tomorrow, made up of individuals worldwide who had distinguished themselves as recognised leaders in the world community. She was named a ‘Woman to Watch into 2000’ by Business Class magazine and in 2014 she won the Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence Award, recognised in the Global Influence category for her contribution to international development and sustainability.
Ms Olson earned her Joint Bachelor degrees in Economics and Environmental Studies with Thesis honours from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She was a distinguished Bates Resident Scholar at Yale University where she earned a Masters in Environmental Policy from the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
With expertise in global business sustainability including leadership and economic redesign, green building innovation, fair trade, population, environment and development issues, Ms Olson speaks widely to CEO’s, senior business, government and civic leadership groups. She was the sustainability expert for the Opening Plenary of the World Economic Forum’s 2000 meeting in Davos, and has had a significant speaking role on a variety of international speaking platforms. She was the Chair of King Carl Gustaf’s Business Leadership and the Environmental Symposium, Stockholm in 1996, has lectured at the Harvard Kennedy School and was the Myerhoff Visiting Scholar for Global Civic Responsibility, Goucher College, Baltimore.