As I traveled from D.C. to the West Coast listening to a song from one of my favorite Broadway musicals, In the Heights, I couldn't stop thinking about Rebecca Tarbotton. An environmental activist and executive director of The Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Becky was one of the most courageous, inspirational, effective, and kick-up leaders the world has seen. During In the Heights, the lead character Usanavi reels at the loss of a person who had been the soulful center of his Hispanic neighborhood. He exalts the community to raises their voices and give praise, saying,
"Alabanza mean to raise this thing to God's face and to sing
Quite literally "praise to this"
When she was here, the path was clear
And she was just here
She was just here...."
Becky was just in D.C. last month participating in a High Level Dialogue on eliminating ingredients or packaging that are sourced from tropical rainforests and are present in four key global supply chains. The Consumer Goods Forum -- a group of the largest retailers and manufacturers of consumer goods that includes household brands like Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and General Mills -- had made this commitment and is partnering with civil society and the United States government with USAID as the lead in order to make this happen. We carefully chose who would be the most important leaders that we needed to start this dialogue. In a row house across from the White House, we brought together a small group of global consumer goods industry CEOs, official country representatives from Indonesia, Brazil, UK and Norway, a handful of NGO leaders, as well as high level officials from the US government. We knew Becky had to be there.
While we may not have all always agreed with some of RAN's methods of getting companies to the table, we knew their ground breaking and comprehensive agreement with The Walt Disney Company was exactly the creative collaboration that we wanted as a model. We also knew that Becky Tarbotton was just the kind of leader to help us extend this vision to hundreds of companies and, together with consumers, save many of the world's precious rainforests.
I was excited to have her at the table. There are still too few women leaders invited to forge the way forward and yet we will not get there without their insights and courage. I had been someone who cared about the earth and about the transformation for good that business can effect. I cherished her participation and enthusiastically wanted those of us at the table to honor the role of business in lifting people in the developing world out of extreme poverty while also learning to step more lightly on the earth. I knew she had many of the answers.
Becky died while swimming in Mexico over Christmas. This Saturday in San Francisco, her life and groundbreaking contributions will be celebrated.
Courageous. Enthusiastic. Thoughtful. Creative. Forceful. Dealmaker.
These are just some of her attributes that we will hold in our hearts and will place in the center of the negotiating table as we continue her work.
As the forests across the world weep, we raise our praise to Becky and promise that we will make her proud as we work to eliminate rainforest deforestation in the world's supply chains.
From the Amazon to the Congo to Indonesia.
Alabanza, Alabanza a Doña Becky.
Tunamshukuru na tunamsifu Mama Becky.
Kita sangat berterima kasih atas dedikasi beliau. Selamat jalan Ibu Becky.