Transforming our Common Environment and Energy Futures: Perspectives on the Journey from Public Servant to Private Citizen

Watch on the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability YouTube Channel

On February 12, Lisa Jackson visited the IoES, talked with faculty and students, and gave the Winter Oppenheim Lecture. She inspired admiration, challenged people to “be influential” in their careers, and demonstrated how she had been in hers. Ms. Jackson recounted her journey: what impelled a young African American to become an engineer (an affinity for math and science) and why she became committed to urban environmental efforts to clean up pollution, remove toxics, and protect public health, from the time she started her career as a chemical engineer working at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over 26 years ago. Twenty years later, in 2008, Ms. Jackson was President Obama’s choice to lead the EPA. There, she oversaw the work of over 17,000 people across the country, including headquarters in Washington, D.C., 10 regional offices, and more than a dozen labs. As Administrator, she focused on issues like reducing greenhouse gases, protecting air and water quality, preventing exposure to toxic contamination, and expanding outreach to communities on environmental issues.

In 2013 she left public service after 25 years and joined Apple, as vice president of environmental initiatives, reporting to CEO Tim Cook. At Apple, Ms. Jackson oversees the company’s efforts to reduce their environmental impact, ranging from removing toxics from its products, incorporating renewable energy in its facilities, addressing electronic waste, and continually raising the bar for energy efficiency in the electronics industry.

Ms. Jackson used her experience to talk about how government and business can fundamentally transform the way we address environmental challenges.