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King’s Birthday Honours 2023: Female business pioneer made OBE

King’s Birthday Honours 2023: Female business pioneer made OBE

The first woman to lead the UK’s waste management and recycling industry, Jacqueline O’Donovan, has been made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the King’s Birthday Honours list and recognised for her outstanding services to Recycling, to Safety and to Industry.

The high-profile businesswoman and social entrepreneur has led the UK waste and recycling industry for more than 36 years and has been pivotal in transforming the sector’s safety and sustainability practices. She is recognised as an industry disruptor and trailblazing female business leader and an advocate of safe, green, and sustainable operations.

“I cannot express how honoured I am at being recognised with this OBE for my work within recycling, waste, sustainability and safety,” Jacqueline said.

“To come from such humble beginnings, and to leave school with little to no qualifications and do a job that I absolutely love in an amazing transforming industry is such a surreal feeling.”

“Having attended local state junior and senior schools and recalling my teachers telling me to listen or I wouldn’t get a job, makes me chuckle, and proves that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. I am blown away with this recognition and truly honoured.”

“To wake up on Saturday morning to messages of congratulations from Lord’s, Professors and many friends and colleagues is a dream come true.”

It was a very humble start for Jacqueline; both in life and in business. Her parents moved from Cork in southern Ireland in the 1950’s to northwest London, or what was fondly known as County Kilburn due to the predominance of Irish families, and where all four O’Donovan children were born.

Life was hard. All six members of the family living in a cramped one-bedroom flat until Jacqueline was aged five and the family moved to north London.

Jacqueline and her siblings continued their father’s legacy and the business grew with Jacqueline leading the family firm as Managing Director from the tender age of 19. Starting small and growing from £175,000 annual turnover to £20 million plus.

While at the helm, Jacqueline built a successful company that now leads the way in safety, ethics, and sustainability. She implemented a raft of safety and environmental practices that have revolutionised the sector.

In an industry that is predominantly male, Jacqueline has never been bothered by the gender disparity. She strived to make her mark and to make the industry safer, cleaner and more inclusive and appealing to all.

Jacqueline’s profile is well-recognised in the UK and Ireland business community where she has received various accolades for her work, including the PwC UK Private Businesswoman of the Year, Growing Business Awards Entrepreneur of the Year, Building Awards Female Leader, Institute of Directors Family Director of the Year Award, Business Post Global Irish Diaspora Business Leader of the Year Award, as well as being recruited onto the independent judiciary panel of the 2022 EY Entrepreneur of the Year UK programme and named Woman of the Decade in Enterprise and Leadership by the Women’s Economic Forum.

In coming months, Jacqueline will launch her next big venture which will see the trailblazing businesswoman tackle an exciting new challenge.


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