Five things you should know about Lisa Jackson, the woman leading environment and social initiatives at Apple

BY Preta Peace Namasaba February 14, 2024 12:48 PM EDT
Lisa Jackson. Photo credit: Apple

With a market capitalization of nearly $3 trillion, Apple is one of the most valuable publicly traded companies in the world. Its products ranging from the iPhone, MacBook, and iPad to AirPods and the multitude of apps they support have been ingrained into daily American life. Lisa Jackson, vice president of environment, policy, and social initiatives is the Black woman at the forefront of aligning Apple’s commercial interests with sustainability initiatives.

She holds a bachelor of science in chemical engineering from Tulane University and a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University. Jackson has previously worked at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). She joined Apple as its environmental director in 2013.

Here are five things you should know about Lisa Jackson.

1. She was a valedictorian
Jackson was adopted two weeks after her birth and grew up in a predominantly African-American middle-class neighborhood of New Orleans. Jackson’s exceptional performance in mathematics earned her a scholarship from the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering & Science, allowing her to gain early exposure to a college environment. She graduated as valedictorian from St. Mary’s Dominican High School and attended Tulane University with a scholarship from Shell Oil Company. Jackson was also named a National Merit Scholar.

2. The Love Canal Disaster piqued her interest in the environment
The broad media coverage of the Love Canal Disaster in the 1970s made her concerned about environmental matters. The event displaced numerous families and left them with long-standing health issues. Jackson spent a year and a half working at Clean Sites, a nonprofit advocating for accelerated cleanup of contaminated areas. She then joined the EPA as a staff engineer and has since worked to conserve the environment.

3. Jackson is the first African-American administrator of the EPA
Jackson had just been announced as the Chief of Staff to the Governor of New Jersey when President Barack Obama nominated her to serve as administrator of the EPA in December 2008. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate a month later and immediately took office. Jackson is the first African American to serve as EPA Administrator and the fourth woman to hold the position. She was in charge of three associates, twelve assistants, and ten regional administrators overseeing over 17,000 agency employees.

4. Apple was her first tech job
Following nearly three decades in public policy, Jackson took her first tech job as Apple’s environmental director. She has been at the forefront of the environmental roadmap for Apple 2030 to make all products carbon-neutral. The brand has already ended the use of leather across all product lines, launched its first entirely fiber-based packaging for the new Apple Watch lineup and its first carbon-neutral devices. Apple has also made energy-efficient upgrades to more than 6,400,000 square feet of its buildings, reducing electricity needs by nearly one-fifth and saving $27 million.

“At Apple, we have a longstanding and proven commitment to leading the fight against climate change. Our focus on renewable energy and low-carbon design has already driven industry-leading emissions reductions, and we’re not slowing down,” Jackson said about leading the way in renewable energy.

5. Jackson launched Apple’s flagship $200 million REJI program
Over the last decade, Jackson’s responsibilities have expanded to include accessibility, education, and Apple’s flagship Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI) program. REGI was launched in 2020 to address systemic racism in response to George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter movement. It has grown from an initial commitment of $100 million to more than $200 million worth of investment in projects supporting education, economic empowerment and criminal justice reform.