Words of Wisdom: Rebecca Mills

Interview: Rebecca Mills: The woman who wants us all to help change the world

One of my favourite things that happened last year was TedxAuckland, one day in August when I sat down in the ASB Theatre in the morning and left eight hours later feeling thoroughly inspired. The best thing about Ted talks is that it's always the speakers you know nothing about that inspire the most. Last year it was Welby Ings and Grace Taylor, both of whom moved me to tears.

The first speakers for this year's event on the 16th of August have recently been announced - and it's the same perfect smattering of the known and unknown that I delighted so much in last year. One of these is the wonderful Rebecca Mills, a sustainability strategist who helped build Richard Branson's world-changing movement - The B Team. Here are her words of wisdom...

Tell us a little about what you do
I build strategies that create a brighter future for people, the planet and profit. I rapidly sythensize data and insights to find leverage points, which when activated result in high impact, transformative and scalable models for individuals, business, cities and entire countries.

What’s the proudest moment in your career to date?
There have been a couple, but most recently being nominated to curate New Zealand’s ‘global shapers’ on behalf of the  World Economic Forum.  It's a great honour to have received nominations from around the world and it's the first time New Zealand will have a presence in this capacity.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? 
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

Who are your biggest influences?
I am both inspired and challenged by the friends and family. My Grandmother Mary Mills continues to influence me every day- she was born at a time when women did not have the opportunities and ability to catalyse real change like we do today. Despite that, she was a thought leader and activist, all the while raising 11 children and working night shifts as a nurse.

What one thing do you think people can change in their daily lives that will help make the world a better place? 
I’m going to be controversial here and say eat less meat - specifically red meat. It’s estimated that 14.5% of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock – which is more than the contribution from all forms of transport. Beef production makes up 41% of those emissions. Last year, Brazil reported a 28% increase in Amazonian deforestation - 80% of deforested land in Brazil is used for cattle farming. This results in a huge loss of biodiversity. Modern beef farming is also a huge drain on water resources. A 2010 study calculated that it takes 1799 gallons of water to make just 1lb of beef.

If you could have dinner with any three people in the world, living or dead, who would you pick? 
Amelia Earhart – I’m fascinated by her life, the mystery around it, and how she came to be the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.
Charles Darwin - developing theory of evolution against a backdrop of disbelief and skepticism – that’s cool.
Charles Eisenstein - He’s alive and already a legend.

If you could go back in time, what one piece of advice would you give your 20 year old self?
Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully doing something different to what I am doing now…my ambitious aim is to design myself out of a job within five years. We won’t need sustainability strategists in the future, my dream is that we have the models, mindsets and approaches we need to create a better world built into our DNA.

What can we expect from your talk at TedxAuckland?
To feel confident and happy that together, today - moving as a collaborative system, we can create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.

What other speaker are you most excited to hear from at TedxAuckland? 
Rory Steyn – chief of Nelson Mandela’s personal security. What that man must have seen in his time is mind blowing.

What’s your favourite Ted talk at the moment? 
Joshua Prager – In search for the man who broke my neck. I had a life changing accident when I was 16,where I lost a lot of skin from my face, fractured my skull and was lucky to walk again. I can relate to the the emotions he raises and mirror he holds towards us about the human condition.


You can see Rebecca alongside an inspiring line up of Kiwi speakers at TedxAuckland this year speaking on the theme of Ascending. Find out all the details here, or click here to find tickets.

Written by: 

gather and hunt

Photography by: 

Laura Forest