Cleanup leaders discussed on greenwashing and global collaboration

The first Let’s Do it World 2020 conference day started with Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas addressing the delegates with a reminder, that we borrow Earth from our children. He commended all the participants of their efforts and promised to stay committed to the cause of a clean environment.

The first session of the day was focused on sharing experiences and lessons learned from World Cleanup Day 2019. Heidi Solba, The President and Head of Network of Let’s Do It World introduced this year’s conference’s central focus of building partnerships to help increase the participants’ number to 5% of the world population.

Aijan Chynybaeva from Kyrgyzstan, which had 10% of the total population participating in the 2019 cleanup, said over video message that to increase credibility and bring larger numbers of cleaners out, the cleanups need to be regular so that people are convinced of its authenticity. Agustina Iskandar from Indonesia, a country that saw over 9 million people pick up trash in the 2019 campaign, shared their 9 secrets of making it happen and reminded that moving people before moving trash is the key. “As a leader, you may sometimes lose the fire within you, but the miracle of a team will keep you going,” she said to the delegates.

Sovann Nou from Cambodia got everyone nodding along when he said: “I am a lazy guy, so I need to go straight to top.” In Cambodia’s experience going for the ministers and asking their support worked the best in mobilizing the nation. In return, the government has come to support nationwide cleanup actions that have returned many areas of the otherwise littered country to pristine conditions. He left the stage with a call for action: “Use every tool and just do it!”

Steve Jewett and Bill Willoughby from the USA brought the delegates an important message “If you are not having fun, you are doing it wrong”. They reminded the participants that people like to think global and act local, they like being part of something bigger but what gets them working is actions happening in their neighborhood. Maria Mikova and Viktorya Barzanova from Bulgaria urged the clean up national leaders to find ways to engage mass media through clever messaging and getting the key people in the PR industry involved. They encouraged delegates to reach out to local superstars to spread the message and get media attention. The panel was closed by Let’s Do It World network’s Global Creative Director and lthe leader of World Cleanup Day in Estonia, Mart Normet, who shared Estonia’s 2019 experience in creating a cool campaign to catch media’s attention. The most important thing to do is to give focus to your efforts – choose your target population, aim at one subject, pick your ambassadors according to your targets, and focus your message. “Be brave, call the biggest and the best PR agency”, advised Normet the delegates.

The forum saw Khalid Boudali, representing the African Union, share the difficulties the continent faces in its efforts to build modern societies. “You cannot just come to Africa, get something and not give back”, he said and told that the union is working to spread awareness on the importance of businesses creating solid links with communities that are based on mutual respect and benefits. Boudali stressed the importance of cooperation on equal terms as the key to partnerships in Africa.  

Kathleen Rogers, President of Earth Day Network, explained the importance of civic engagement to inflict real changes in countries. “We don’t want to clean up the world day after day,” she said and urged the delegates to work with organizations with civic action experience to force policy changes in sustainability. Massimiliano G. Falcone from Italy shared his failed experiences with the fashion industry that led them to new approaches on how to connect and start a dialogue with apparel producers. He stressed that it’s very important to change the message of fear into a message of enjoyment to start the real change in individual and industry habits.

The panel was concluded with discussion, where the focus of discussion was about possible cooperations for the movement.

After lunch, the delegates woke their senses with stretching exercises led by NATO soldiers.

The second panel of the day focused on talking sustainability and greenwashing with partners. Jens Rupp, Head of Environmental Sustainability at Philip Morris International shared the corporation’s plan on impacting smokers’ habits to reduce the number of cigarette butts in the world. They aim to do so by creating alternatives to cigarettes and creating awareness of the litter smoking leaves. Charlie Felgate, Decathlon’s Vision Leader said that the incentive to engage with sustainability problems comes internally from companies and that Decathlon listens to its workers and its clients to see which way to head.

Sybil Bullock, Global Coordinator for Break Free From Plastic shared the organization’s findings on brand audits – picking up trash and analysis has revealed the biggest culprits in plastic producers. She reminded that recycling is not an answer to the growing plastic debris issue and anyone claiming so is trying to put the blame on the final user and not accept the responsibility.

Panelists converged on stage to participate in the discussion after which the delegates split up between different workshops.

In the workshop led by Anna Gril and Virginie Guerin, participants worked in teams to brainstorm possible ways for forming partnerships to be able to reach the 5% participant goal. To succeed you need to get everyone – public and private sector, education, NGOs, etc – on board, stressed Gril and Guerin. The participants stressed that the most important way to do this is to create personal relationships with partners and use personal and partner networks to expand. The workshop on securing funding and partnership building, led by Jop Blom, Amy McPherson, and Melanie Toxler, gave participants many practical tips and strategies on how to deal with these issues and guidelines for approaching possible partners, donors, and collaborators.

Mart Normet and Olumide Coker from Nigeria held a workshop on making cleanups cool and attracting media. Great ideas and successful campaigns from China, Estonia, Nigeria and the Netherlands were shared. Kaur Lass introduced the concept of Wellness Orbit – a software aimed at helping people cope with workplace stress and avoid burn-out. As he put it very aptly: “You cannot create sustainability in the world with cleanups if you or team are not sustainable.”

The full Conference programme is available on the website and several discussions can be followed live on Facebook and Instagram.

The Conference is supported by the European Regional Fund through Enterprise Estonia, Estonian Foundation for Civil Society, British Council in Estonia, Baltic American Freedom Foundation, the Harmon Foundation and many more.

The attendance of Earth Day representatives at the Let’s Do It World Conference made possible by funding from the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation (BAFF). For more information about BAFF scholarships and speaker support, visit

Photos from the conference:

Let’s Do It World and World Cleanup Day Global Media Contact
Katrin Winter
Head of Communications