From Google to GE, big shakeups in sustainable business

Names in the News

From Google to GE, big shakeups in sustainable business

Names in the news sustainability jobs Google, C&A, GE
Clockwise from top left: Kate Brandt, Google; Beth Comstock, GE; Kate Heiny, C&A; Amber Weaver, city of Asheville; Ezra Garret, Oportun; Jane Madden, Burson-Marsteller.

Labor Day weekend may be just around the corner, but there's been no shortage of business activity when it comes to career moves in the world of corporate sustainability.

From tech titans to European retail to one of the biggest of the big U.S. multinationals, summer is winding down with a flurry of hiring and promotions in key positions.

Have a tip for our next installment of Names in the News, our regular roundup of executive hires, promotions and other goings-on in the realm of green business? Drop us a line at [email protected].

Goodbye White House, hello Google

Just a few weeks before Google shocked the business world by announcing that the company would reorganize around a central holding company called Alphabet, the Silicon Valley tech firm quietly was finalizing a plan to overhaul its sustainability strategy, too.

As GreenBiz reported this week, former Federal Chief Sustainability Officer Kate Brandt was hired by Google in July and "will be leading the development of [the company's] sustainability strategy."

Google has declined to comment on particular areas of focus for Brandt, who was appointed to her former role by President Barack Obama himself earlier this year.

The hire comes as Google and several other large tech firms — Facebook, Apple and Amazon among them — are confronting the logistical challenges involved in reaching ambitious 100 percent renewable energy goals.

"We may be seeing companies hit the next step in their sustainability strategies," David Pomerantz, a senior climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace, said in reaction to the hiring. "These companies now need to hit hard on the policy level."

Google alone has invested more than $2 billion in clean energy to date, but shifting to exclusively renewable power is still a fraught prospect in areas with especially entrenched fossil fuel lobbies.

How Brandt's policy expertise may be put to use in that quest, not to mention other green possibilities for Google's massive building and data center portfolios, will be an area to watch closely in the coming months.

Who's news

Beth Comstock, General Electric

The head of General Electric's business innovation unit, Beth Comstock, has stayed busy of late bringing the company's $2.5 billion lighting business into the age of LEDs and digitization. Now, Comstock, who also leads GE Ventures and Licensing, corporate marketing, sales and communications, will oversee the development of new customer business models in a new role as vice chair.

Comstock first joined GE through its acqusition of NBC in 1986. With the new promotion, she becomes one of four vice chairs at the company — and the first woman to hold the role.

Kate Heiny, C&A

Former Target sustainability director Kate Heiny has made the move to European retail, starting in a new role as global head of sustainability for Dutch fashion company C&A late last month.

Heiny, who will be based in Brussels, will be charged with coordinating regional progress toward C&A's Global Sustainability Framework. Her move follows that of Jeffrey Hogue, who departed as senior director of global CSR at McDonald's to take up the mantle as chief sustainability officer at C&A.

Jane Madden, Burson-Marsteller

Public relations and communications firm Burson-Marsteller has hired Jane Madden, a 25-year veteran of the sustainability industry, to serve as managing director and head of corporate social responsibility.

Madden, based in Chicago, has spent her carrer advising large companies in sectors such as extractives, consumer packaged goods, healthcare, food and apparel on social impact, conflict minerals, reporting and stakeholder engagement

Ezra Garrett, Oportun

It's utility to startup for Ezra Garrett, who recently left his post as chief sustainability officer for California utility PG&E for a role as vice president of community relations at Oportun — a venture capital-backed financial services startup that offers underserved Hispanic customers credit-building loans at affordable rates.

Garrett also will serve as executive director of the Oportun Foundation.

On the move

Amber Weaver was recently named the city of Asheville, North Carolina's second chief sustainability officer. Formerly an energy and environmental project manager in Dekalb County, Georgia, she will oversee a range of new and existing sustainability initiatives, including the city's Green Business Program.

— The 10,000-employee strong architecture and design firm HDR has announced that Deborah Rivers has been hired as a senior healthcare architect and sustainability expert. She will be based in the company's Boston office.

— Clean Production Action, a nonprofit focused on green chemicals and sustainable materials, has welcomed a new research associate, Mariel Wolfson. She will head up the Chemical Footprint Project’s first major research project on corporate chemical footprints.

— The CEO of solar silicon manufacturer Silicor Materials, Theresa Jester, has been named the American Solar Energy Society's 2015 Woman in Solar Energy.