March 25, 2022 9:46 AM EDT

Ellie Goulding is best known as a global pop star; her multi-platinum hits, like “Love Me Like You Do” and “Lights,” have racked up more than 23 billion online streams and over 18 million album sales, thanks to her unique, powerful singing voice and style. But she has also become an equally powerful voice on the world stage as a champion and protector of the environment. A Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Environment Program since 2017, Goulding recently spoke at the COP26 climate conference, calling out world leaders for their lack of action. “I’m not afraid to go up and give people a hard time,” she says. “People need to hear that they’re not doing enough, that they’re not committing, that they’re not taking enough action.” Still, her role as an environmental leader is ironic to her: “There’s something really wrong when I have to keep making speeches, because I really don’t like making them,” she says.

She prefers her activism to be entwined with her work. Her most recent album, 2020’s Brightest Blue, incorporated some of her climate-related fears in its lyrics. Her abbreviated tour was plastic-free and powered by renewables. Even the packaging of her CDs and vinyls used biodegradable and recycled materials. “It’s really just being as transparent with what you do as possible. And being as conscious as you can, with what you have in your power as a musician,” she says. “It really did make people in the music industry realize that we have the power, we have the resources; it’s now just getting people on board.”

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Write to Raisa Bruner at raisa.bruner@time.com.

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