Amazon, GE and the 'geniuses' reshaping sustainability

Names in the News

Amazon, GE and the 'geniuses' reshaping sustainability

Sustainability careers, Amazon, MacArthur Foundation, Hyperloop, GE
Clockwise from top left: LaToya Ruby Frazier, MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant recipient; Rob Lloyd, Hyperloop Technologies; Bill Ruh, General Electric; Erin Decker, Renewable Choice Energy; Ben Branham, Fenton; Christine Bader, Amazon.

Summer's over, New York Climate Week has passed and the rest of 2015 looks sure to be busy for those steeped in corporate sustainability.

Although the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal has rocked the world of sustainability in recent weeks, there also has been a more positive flurry of developments.

This month's Names in the News — the GreenBiz wrap up of who's doing what in the realm of environmental and social responsibility — takes from the Fortune 500 to the high-tech sector to the growing market for renewable energy.

Have a tip for our next installment about a colleague, or maybe your own career move in the works? Drop us a line at [email protected].

The geniuses rehaping sustainability

A dancer, a writer, an inorganic chemist and even a puppeteer; the recently announced 2015 class of MacArthur Fellows — each of whom will receive a no-strings-attached "genius grant" worth $625,000 — might not seem like a group with direct relevance to sustainability.

<p>Photographer and video artist LaToya Ruby Frazier.</p>
But in addition to environmental engineer Kartick Chandran and environmental health advocate Gary Cohen, this year's grantees also include artists and professionals with more intersectional expertise increasingly in demand in the field.

"Each of them, in some way, looks at how individual parts affect a whole system, or how a network affects its nodes," as Wired observed.

Photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier, for instance, has chronicled the demise of rust belt economies through "visual autobiographies" of the working-class (mostly African-American) residents affected — a vivid example of increasing recognition of the ties that bind economic forces, social justice, environmental degradation, public health and other issues.

Beyond the genius grants, the MacArthur Foundation also doled out $50 million this year through a new Climate Solutions program.

Who's news

Christine Bader, Amazon

Last month it was Google, and now another of the biggest names in tech is beefing up its in-house sustainability team. Christine Bader, a veteran of BP's corporate social responsibility operation who has written extensively on the topic, has been tapped to serve as Amazon's new director of social responsibility.

As GreenBiz has reported, Amazon hired its first sustainability executive last year and — amid ongoing pressure from environmental groups such as Greenpeace — has continued to grow its CSR staff.

Bill Ruh, GE

As part of the launch of a new division called GE Digital, General Electric is shaking up staffing in a number of business units related to big industries with big implications for sustainability.

Bill Ruh, current chief of GE's growing software portolio, has been named chief digital officer. Russell Stokes will become CEO of energy management, and Jamie Miller will serve as CEO of GE transportation.

Erin Decker, Renewable Choice Energy

As the former sustainability lead for software giant Salesforce, Erin Decker is no stranger to the quirks of buying renewable energy.

Now, she'll be helping others do the power buying in a new role as a senior director of business development for Renewable Choice Energy. Decker, who previously helped Salesforce set a 100 percent renewable energy goal, will be part of Renewable Choice Energy's growing power purchase agreement division.

Rob Lloyd, Hyperloop Technologies

Cisco alumn Rob Lloyd is launching way outside of the realm of enterprise tech with a new role as CEO of Hyperloop Technologies.

The startup is one of several pursuing the "sci-fi pipe dream of a tubular transit system," in the words of Re/Code, popularized by Tesla CEO Elon Musk. In addition to Lloyd, the startup is staffed by the likes of investor and entrepreneur Shervin Pishevar and SpaceX veteran Brogan BamBrogan.

On the move

- Ben Branham, previously an executive who oversaw ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's economic development initiatives, has accepted a position as managing director for the New York office of the progressive communications firm Fenton.

- It's been a busy fall for the clean transportation nonprofit CALSTART, which recently hired BSR alumnus Ryan Schuchard to fill a role as policy director. Last week, CALSTART also announced that Pasquale Romano, president and CEO at ChargePoint, and Frank De Rosa, principal of advanced solutions at SunEdison, have joined the organization's board.

- With all eyes on China after a series of major climate announcements over the past year, the Department of Energy has announced that the University of California, Berkeley will lead a new U.S.-China consortium on the nexus between water use and energy consumption. The Clean Energy Research Center for Water Energy Technologies will be funded with $50 million over five years.