The Woman Working to Make Apple More Sustainable

Badass Women celebrates women who show up, speak up, and get things done.

Lisa Jackson
Photo: Jackson at Apple headquarters in Silicon Valley. Courtesy Apple.

When she was a child, Lisa Jackson says her mom, grandmother, and aunt (“sort of my badass trio”) wouldn’t let her accept anything less than success. “I came from this line of women who told me, ‘Nothing’s going to hold you back except you.’ They said, ‘You’ve been given this brain. You’re good at math and science. You’re going to do something with it,’ ” Jackson says. And she did, earning chemical-engineering degrees from Tulane and Princeton, which eventually landed her a job as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (appointed by President Obama, she was the first African-American to hold that position).

During her four years in charge at the EPA she fought to decrease greenhouse-gas emissions and prevent toxic metals like mercury from contaminating the environment. In 2013 she joined Apple as vice president of environment, policy, and social initiatives. “Right now business has the lead on climate change,” she says. “At Apple we’re showing regulators around the world that not only can we comply, but we can find a way to thrive financially.”

Climate connection: Growing up in New Orleans, Jackson says she quickly understood the importance of caring for the environment (around age 8, she even wrote a letter to President Nixon asking him to protect the planet). Later, while studying at Tulane, she realized her passions for science and the environment could (and should) be combined. “I decided that if chemical engineering taught you how to process all of these materials, then it also should teach you how to make sure you aren’t polluting the planet at the same time,” she says.

Lisa Jackson
Jackson with President Obama in 2012. JEWEL SAMAD/Getty Images. 

Taking a stand: By refusing to compromise on her eco-forward mission, Jackson has become a force for change. “Apple has been about proving what’s possible,” she says. Under her leadership the company has started to run global operations on 100 percent renewable power and has issued $2.5 billion in green bonds toward environment-based projects. Apple also supports social causes, recently teaming up with Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai’s nonprofit to promote girls’ education.

Word up: Working in the tech industry doesn’t deter Jackson from embracing good old-fashioned fun. “My completely geeky but absolutely true obsession is the New York Times crossword puzzle,” she says, laughing. “I can’t go to sleep without finishing it every day.”

The only “I” in team: Innovation is the name of the game at Apple, and Jackson takes pride in making sure her employees’ big ideas for doing things differently are heard. “I don’t mind skepticism; what I mind is the kind of cynicism that tears an idea down without spending any time on it,” she says. “The other day someone sent me six pages of crazy, out-of-the-box ideas around climate change, and one of them we’ll probably do. I love that.”

Last year Apple confirmed that all its global facilities were powered by 100 percent renewable energy, and this month the company announced that 44 of its suppliers have also committed to powering their Apple production with 100 percent clean energy. With this support, Apple will now exceed its goal of bringing four gigawatts of renewable energy into its supply chain by 2020.

Today, Apple released its 2019 Environmental Report, which details strides made towards creating devices using only recycled or renewable materials. The report also announces new ways for customers to recycle their devices. For more on Apple’s environmental initiatives, visit

For more stories like this, pick up the May issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download on April 19.

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