Tired of fighting off attacks from industry lobbyists and the politicians who love them, former EPA chief Lisa Jackson resigned her post in late December 2012. Just days ago, it was revealed that her next job will be reporting to Apple CEO Tim Cook as the tech giant’s vice president for environmental initiatives.
“I’m incredibly impressed with Apple’s commitment to the environment and I’m thrilled to be joining the team,” Jackson wrote in an e-mail to the Washington Post.
While Jackson might be impressed, Apple’s true commitment to the environment is still questionable in the minds of many. In 2011, Care2′s Kristina Chew reported that Apple was named the least green technology company by Greenpeace, because of its reliance on “dirty data”—coal-burning—centers. Then, in 2012, Chew reported on Apple’s shocking decision to withdraw its products from EPEAT, the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, a non-profit that certifies green electronics for use by the U.S. Government and many of the world’s largest corporations (a decision they later reversed because of public outcry).
And while it seems fitting that the largest and most powerful tech company in the world would choose the former head of the EPA to oversee its sustainability efforts, Jackson’s own record isn’t exactly that of an environmental warrior. Though persistent, history shows that she often backs down from the biggest fights.
In 2011, Jackson shocked the environmental community by telling Congress there was ‘no proof’ fracking is dangerous. She was also a major force behind Obama’s decision to merely delay, rather than reject, the highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline, leaving its ultimate fate for the next unlucky soul to head up the EPA. Jackson’s agency was also a non-factor during the BP oil spill. In 2010, the EPA ordered the company to cease its dumping of chemical dispersants on the Gulf of Mexico. BP blatantly ignored the order, yet faced no consequences.
Still, there were some victories during Jackson’s four years at the helm of America’s environmental policy. In 2009, Jackson led the effort to modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act (although bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates still linger in thousands of American products). Then, in 2011, Jackson established the nation’s first-ever Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for power plants, a regulation that had been several decades in the making.
So the question remains: will employing one of the most prominent environmental policy leaders of our time finally allow Apple to green up its image?
Greenpeace, the organization who called Apple out for its dirty data centers, seems optimistic:
“Apple has made a bold move in hiring Lisa Jackson, a proven advocate with a track record of combating toxic waste and the dirty energy that causes global warming, two of Apple’s biggest challenges as it continues to grow,” said Greenpeace’s Senior IT Analyst Gary Cook, in an official blog post on the matter. ”Jackson can make Apple the top environmental leader in the tech sector by helping the company use its influence to push electric utilities and governments to provide the clean energy that both Apple and America need right now.”
Perhaps, now that Jackson will be working with an organization that actually wants to clean up its act (unlike the Government and U.S. industries) she will finally be given the freedom to make the big, uncomfortable changes that will result in actual progress. Only time will tell.