Apple hires former EPA head to boost its green cred

Apple hires former EPA head to boost its green cred

By May 29, 2013: 12:01 PM ET

Lisa JacksonLisa Jackson

FORTUNE — If anyone can bring some bite to Apple’s green programs, it’s Lisa Jackson. Trained as a chemical engineer, Jackson revamped the declawed version of the Environmental Protection Agency that she inherited in 2009. Sure, Congress shot down her proposed carbon cap and trade program, but she was able to pass emissions regulations that are changing the shape of the U.S. energy landscape.

Now, she’s headed to Apple (AAPL). CEO Tim Cook announced at All Things D’s tech conference on Tuesday that Jackson would soon head its environmental efforts, though he didn’t mention her exact title. In fact, he didn’t relay much of anything, according to Fortune writer Adam Lashinsky.

Hiring Jackson makes sense for Apple, as the company has been attempting to up its sustainability game. For example, it pledged to run all its facilities off of renewable energy by the end of this year. As of 2012, Apple claims, it was 75% there.

The company has made some environmental missteps, however. Last year, Cook wanted to pull Apple devices off of green product registry EPEAT, claiming that Apple’s internal standards were above and beyond the third party’s. Cook reversed his decision a week later, after Apple received unanticipated backlash from the press. No doubt Apple hopes that having Jackson at the company’s eco-wheel will steer the tech giant clear of such blunders going forward.

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Though she’s spent her stint at the EPA working through policy in Washington, she’s spoken directly to the tech community before. In fact, at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech Conference in 2010, Jackson urged tech executives there to consider the life cycles of their products. “When you think about how you’re designing,” she said, “think about how it will come apart.”

She also seemed hopeful that the tech world would understand environmental policy before other industries in this country. “The tech field is younger and greener and cooler by nature. They take their products back, and they’re starting to have a real ethic of corporate responsibility.”

Brainstorm Tech was one of the many high-profile, public conferences that Jackson attended as head of the EPA. Throughout her tenure, she was tech-savvy and open for an administrator, and brought the EPA along with her. The EPA, in fact, didn’t really have a face until she got there. It’ll be interesting to see how she uses her strong, public presence at the traditionally tight-lipped Apple.

Author: AFGE Local 704

Representing over 900 bargaining unit employees working at the U.S. EPA Region 5 Offices in Chicago, Ann Arbor, MI and Westlake, OH.

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