A guide for Big Tech’s chief sustainability officers

Chief sustainability officers are furious. Tech companies are recruiting them from right to left and presenting them as human charms of their commitment to combating climate change, one (sometimes dubious) net zero goal at a time.

In some cases, NGOs have real power to align companies with climate targets. But in others, they are window dressings. To understand exactly where NGOs can make real change, we looked at the reporting structures of eight major tech companies and whether executive compensation is tied to meeting their sustainability goals.

Giving an NGO a direct line to the CEO not only empowers them to make real changes to the way a business operates, but also gives a clear indication to the rest of the company that sustainability is and is a central part of a business plan. sends a signal. considered later. According to this An NGO survey from Deloitte and the Institute of International Finance, 32% reporting directly to the CEO and 13% to the head of marketing.

“If you’re reporting to the head of marketing and trying to impress someone at risk, you’re pushing a boulder uphill. They’re going to perceive what you’re doing as a marketing campaign when you’re really aiming for strategic transformation,” one of the NGOs surveyed told Deloitte.

In Tim Mohin’s view, the role of the NGO is “changing rapidly”. According to Mohin, CSO of carbon management startup Persefoni, corporate sustainability used to be much more of a marketing issue in the past, and now it’s more on the side of financial risk and business strategy. wrote the book on corporate sustainability For a company to have a genuine commitment to sustainability, its NGO must understand how the business works from a corporate risk and finance perspective so that they can have the authority and credibility to make real change. Mohin believes it’s better for an NGO to start with a solid background in business or product domain expertise and then develop ESG knowledge rather than work the other way around.

Kentaro Kawamori, CEO of Persefoni, agrees with his NGO’s assessment. Questions to ask companies to truly ascertain the strength of their commitments include whether they relate executive salary to decarbonisation, whether they hire people with the right sustainability credentials, or, in Kawamori’s words, “just hire a PR professional.”

So here are the chief sustainability officers at some of the biggest tech companies we watch at Protocol.


Who: Kate Brandt, head of sustainability

Background and responsibilities: Brandt leads sustainability across Google’s worldwide operations, products, and supply chain. According to this a Google blog postThis means that the company coordinates with data centers, real estate and product teams “to ensure the company capitalizes on opportunities to strategically advance sustainability.” Prior to joining Google in 2015, he was appointed Federal Environmental Manager by former President Barack Obama and was the first Federal Chief Sustainability Officer responsible for promoting sustainability across the US federal government.

Reporting structure: In the CFO’s office, Brandt reports to Ellen West, vice president of Engagement at Google, who reports to CFO Ruth Porat. Brandt also reported in a dotted line To Urs Hölzle, senior vice president of Technical Infrastructure at Google.

Compensation: Google announced in a public statement In part, the company has launched a bonus program for members of its executive team starting this year, which will be determined by performance that supports ESG goals.


Who: Lucas Joppa, environmental officer

Background and responsibilities: Joppa leads the development and execution of the sustainability strategy in Microsoft’s worldwide businesses. He has a doctorate degree. in ecology and highly cited researcher. (The h-index for top academic nerds is 45.) Prior to this position, he was Microsoft’s first chief environmental scientist and Artificial intelligence for the world program.

Reporting structure: Joppa reports to Brad Smith, president and vice president of Microsoft.

Compensation: Microsoft announced in 2021 that progress in sustainability goals is part of executive compensation. This adds to the practice the company has had since 2016 to link some of its executive salary to ESG measures, starting with diversity representation gains. This applies to members of the senior leadership team, including CEO Satya Nadella.


Who: Global Sustainability Director Edward Palmieri

Background and responsibilities: Palmieri leads Meta’s global sustainability team of more than 30 professionals responsible for developing and executing the company’s strategy on environmental and responsible supply chain issues. According to LinkedIn. Prior to this role, he was Meta’s assistant general counsel focusing on privacy issues. Prior to that, she was vice president of privacy at Sprint.

Reporting structure: Palmieri reports to Rachel Peterson, Meta’s Vice President of Infrastructure.

Compensation: According to a Meta spokesperson, executive salary at Meta is not tied to sustainability goals.


Who: Kara Hurst, Vice President and Head of Worldwide Sustainability

Background and responsibilities: Hurst is responsible for running the business. climate commitmentsustainable operations and responsible supply chain management, among other things. Prior to Amazon, he was CEO of the Sustainability Consortium, a nonprofit focused on making the consumer goods industry more sustainable. Prior to that, he was vice president at BSR, a sustainable consulting firm.

Reporting structure: Hurst reports to Alicia Boler Davis, Amazon’s senior vice president of global customer satisfaction.

Compensation: Amazon does not explicitly link executive compensation to its sustainability goals. In its 2021 proxy statement, the company stated that it does not tie cash or equity compensation to performance targets, adding, “A performance target assumes some level of success with a predetermined measure. But to have a culture that is relentless inventing and focused on building shareholder value not just this year, but five, ten, or even twenty years from now, we must by definition encourage experimentation and long-term thinking. means we don’t know in advance what will work. We don’t want our people to focus solely on short-term returns at the expense of long-term growth and innovation.” That doesn’t mean shareholders haven’t tried. make a company link compensation to climate targets. They just didn’t succeed.


Who: Emma Stewart, sustainability officer

Background and responsibilities: Stewart holds a PhD in Environmental Science and Management, is Netflix’s first sustainability officer and is responsible for the company’s climate and environmental strategy and implementation. He oversees decarbonisation efforts in Netflix’s corporate and film and TV production operations, and these operations account for the majority of the company’s direct emissions. It is also tasked with ensuring that Netflix’s film and TV content includes sustainability-related themes. By 2021, productions and streaming account for 63% of the company’s carbon footprint, while corporate emissions remain at 37%. ESG report. (Other parts of Netflix’s Scope 3 emissions tied to the energy used by its viewers dwarfed these other sources.) Prior to Netflix, Stewart headed the World Resources Institute’s work on urban efficiency, climate, and finance.

Reporting structure: Stewart reports to Spencer Neumann, CFO of Netflix.

Compensation: According to a spokesperson, Stewart’s salary is not tied to sustainability goals, and the executive salary at Netflix is ​​generally designed to attract and retain “outstanding performers.” company attorney statement.


Who: Lisa Jackson, Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives

Background and responsibilities: Jackson oversees the company’s efforts to minimize its impact on the environment “by using renewable energy and energy efficiency, using greener materials, and inventing new ways to conserve valuable resources.” According to Apple. He also leads the $100 million Racial Equality and Justice initiative and is responsible for Apple’s education policy programs, product accessibility efforts, and government business worldwide. Before Apple, he was the director of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Reporting structure: Jackson reports to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Compensation: Apples 2021 proxy statement He confirmed that annual bonus payouts for executives will increase or decrease by up to 10% depending on whether they meet their so-called “Apple Values”. One of these values ​​is the commitment to the protection of the environment.

sales team

Who: Suzanne DiBianca, chief influencer and vice president of Corporate Affairs

Background and responsibilities: DiBianca leads Salesforce’s “stakeholder capitalism strategy,” which includes sustainability efforts, ESG strategy and reporting. He has been with Salesforce for over 20 years and was previously the co-founder and president of Salesforce Foundation and Salesforce.org, which provides free or discounted licenses to Salesforce software for nonprofits, educational institutions, and philanthropists.

Reporting structure: DiBianca reports to Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff.

Compensation: sales team recently announced A portion of the executive variable salary for VPs and above will be determined by the four ESG measures for this fiscal year that will focus on equity and sustainability. Sustainability measures depend on reducing air travel emissions as well as increasing spending with suppliers that have signed the company’s contract. Sustainability ExhibitionA procurement contract that aims to reduce its suppliers’ carbon emissions and align them with the 1.5 degrees Celsius target.


Who: Todd Brady, Vice President of Global Public Affairs and Head of Sustainability

Background and responsibilities: The company established its NGO role over the past year. Brady is part of Intel’s manufacturing and supply chain organization. He is an Intel client and has held a variety of leadership roles at the company, including environmental health and safety, product ecology and stewardship, as well as public relations.

Reporting structure: Brady reports to Keyvan Esfarjani, Executive Vice President and Director of Global Operations at Intel.

Compensation: Since 2008, Intel has attributed some of its executive and employee remuneration to corporate responsibility factors such as sustainability. In 2020, these operational goals included climate change and water management. The company said it took 82% of its energy from “green” sources and 39% reduced emissions per unit that year. (This last measure is different from reducing overall emissions, though.) In 2021, the company set new benchmarks, according to a spokesperson.

This story has been updated to include Netflix’s latest ESG report.


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