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The ANNpower Vital Voices Initiative is a groundbreaking partnership between ANN INC., the parent company of Ann Taylor and LOFT, and Vital Voices. We are working together to empower young women from across the U.S. with the leadership skills they need to affect global progress, invest in their communities and begin their journeys as the next generation of leaders.

Madi is a 2012 ANNpower Fellow who attended the 2012 Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C.

Creating change

When I was 11 years old, I wanted to earn a Girl Scout Bronze Award by acting on my childhood passion: a love for animals. I admired Dr. Jane Goodall’s selflessness for spending 50 years of her life relentlessly promoting conservation and peace to people around the world. One night, while researching great apes, I remember staring at the computer screen, tears pouring down my face as I scrolled through pictures of orangutans that had been beaten, burned to death and hacked to pieces for entering a palm oil plantation. Palm oil is an ingredient used in everything from cosmetics to candy bars to baked goods. This initial outrage fueled me to scour my pantry for products containing palm oil. After discovering that palm oil was in the Girl Scout Cookies I had sold since first grade, I was shocked. My friend and I believed it was crucial for us to convince Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) to adopt a rainforest-safe palm oil policy. With this motivation, we began our campaign, Project ORANGS.

Our two petitions on sent over 140,000 emails to Girl Scout USA executives. Even my hero, Dr. Jane Goodall, signed a petition to support our efforts! It was also important to me to keep our campaign positive. Instead of asking Girl Scouts to boycott the cookies, we created a “Rainforest Hero” patch that Scouts can earn and wear on the back of their vests in support.

We started our negotiations with Girl Scouts USA May 2011 after 5 years of campaigning to acquire a meeting. As a result, GSUSA announced a new palm oil policy-the first policy change ever driven directly by the efforts of girls in the organization’s 101 year history.


Girls’ leadership

I started advocating for my passions when I was eleven years old, so fostering girls’ potential is extremely important to me. Girls’ and women’s leadership is a crucial step towards a better world for people, animals and the environment, and I believe that girls and women who have been equipped with leadership skills can not only create solutions within their local communities, but also on an international scale.

 Becoming an ANNpower Fellow not only provided me with exceptional mentors-I had the privilege of working closely with Maria Pacheco, who shares my passion for the environment-but the program also introduced me to a priceless resource: a network of talented, smart, and brave peers who are advocating for causes they are passionate about. Spending time problem solving, speaking with, and learning from, girls across the country filled me with hope and left me determined to work even harder to be a leader in my own community. I’ve found my passion, dedicating over one third of my life to Project ORANGS-and I want to urge young people to embrace the opportunities they have to make the world a better place.


Next steps

The Girl Scouts’ policy on palm oil is a step in the right direction, but I am continuing to advocate for a sustainable solution to this issue. Currently, Girl Scouts USA purchases Greenpalm certificates, which offset their current palm oil usage by offering a monetary incentive to plantations for producing sustainable palm oil. We are persisting in our advocacy efforts until the Girl Scouts use a deforestation-free and socially responsible source of palm oil. In order to make an even larger impact within the palm oil industry, we are asking Kellogg, one of the bakers of Girl Scout cookies, to adopt a deforestation free palm oil policy for their entire product line.

Watch my talk at TEDxRedmond:

To learn more about Project ORANGS: