By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
May 21, 2014

FORTUNE — How can Apple (AAPL) boast about reducing the carbon footprint of its individual products when the company’s overall carbon footprint gets bigger every year?

The question was put to former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson Tuesday by former adventurer Rick Ridgeway at Fortune‘s Brainstorm Green 2014.

Today Jackson oversees environmental affairs at Apple and Ridgeway does the same at Patagonia.

“I don’t want to put you on the spot,” said Ridgeway. “Patagonia’s got exactly the same problem. In our company we call that one the elephant in the room.”

“I am on the spot,” Jackson laughed. But then she got serious:

Listen, if all of us sustainability professionals have to resort to “make and sell less stuff” as the answer to the problem, then we are suffering from an extraordinary lack of imagination. And innovation. One of the things that your company — certainly I think Apple —  is about is trying to understand where the technology innovations and other innovations are that help us to reduce carbon intensity. We’re not advocating for less people to have access to our products. That’s not the answer we’re looking for.

Good to know.

The exchange comes at the 11 minute point in the attached YouTube video.


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