Business

Dr. Lea Borkenhagen joins EDF as Senior VP of EDF+Business

Senior environmental strategist Dr. Lea Borkenhagen will lead the private sector engagement division of Environmental Defense Fund. EDF+Business is known for forging unexpected partnerships with high–impact companies – including McDonalds, Walmart, and KKR – to transform business as usual in their products, operations, and advocacy. EDF+Business has since expanded work in accelerating corporate net zero action, environmental policy advocacy, investor engagement on climate issues, and removing toxic chemicals from products.  

“I am excited to lead the talented and forward-thinking EDF+Business team as we accelerate business’ drive towards a net zero, healthy, and equitable economy. Together, we will catalyze an ambitious vision, enable system-changing collaboration and innovation, and use all of EDF’s scientific, policy-based and business-facing capabilities to achieve our goals and to help deliver novel approaches for our common future,” said Dr. Borkenhagen. 

Dr. Borkenhagen brings two decades of experience in driving positive environmental and social outcomes through business leadership by developing future-facing strategies with the top global food, fashion, retail, and tech companies. She served as Global Strategy and Innovation Advisor to the Earthshot Prize, crafting the strategy to find solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. Prior to that, Lea spent a decade at Nike, where she led a brand-only collaboration of global fashion, retail, and sportswear companies representing over $250B in revenue to deliver accelerated impacts on sustainability industry-wide. Lea headed Nike’s strategy to overturn a decades-old approach to labor and instead value it as a revenue driver, working from factory level to Board. 

Lea applies her on-the-ground knowledge on agriculture, forestry, and manufacturing to innovating on sustainability in business. Before Nike, Lea led Oxfam GB’s global livelihoods work, enabling her team to co-found the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and the Better Cotton Initiative, to build globally relevant frameworks for understanding business impacts on poverty, and to create accelerator fund mechanisms to support businesses that improved wages for low-income populations. 

Lea holds a PhD in Environmental Science, Policy and Management from the University of California at Berkeley on agriculture in Indonesia and was a Fulbright Scholar in the Cote d’Ivoire. Earlier in her career, Lea focused on biodiversity and forest conservation, contributing to the first WRI-IUCN-UNEP Global Biodiversity Strategy where she pioneered a focus on gender and was awarded by UNEP as a New Generation Leader. Her undergraduate degree from Harvard University examined primate and forest ecology in Indonesia. 

“We have until 2030 to drive significant emissions cuts across the global economy. We are delighted to welcome Dr. Borkenhagen at a time when the stakes could not be higher to put business engagement for climate action into overdrive,” said Elaine Gowdy, Associate Vice President of EDF+Business. 

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