Why Pinterest’s new CSO is also the head of the company’s public affairs

March 16, 2023, 2:37 PM UTC
Pinterest's first chief sustainability officer says "Social" is the ESG aspect where the company wields most influence.
Beata Zawrzel—NurPhoto/Getty Images

Last week I talked with Pinterest’s first-ever chief sustainability officer, LeMia Jenkins Thompson, who was appointed to the role in January this year, shortly before the image-sharing and mood board-making social media site released its inaugural ESG report. 

Why did Pinterest wait until now to start mainstreaming a sustainability strategy?

“Well, it’s the culmination of all the work that we’ve been doing up until this point,” Thompson says. “As we think about ESG and how important that is to not only our company but our planet as well, having a senior leader oversee those teams really helps us to bring the company along and double down on those efforts.”

Pinterest, as you might imagine, doesn’t have a particularly large carbon footprint to worry about. Not, at least, when compared to any company engaged in mining, fossil fuels, shipping, or anything with a physical output. 

Pinterest’s Scope 1 and 2 emissions come primarily from the electricity generated to keep the lights on in its offices. The company has committed to sourcing that electricity from 100% renewable sources, or purchasing an equivalent in offset credits, by the end of this year.

Like most internet companies, Pinterest’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions come from the electricity used to power its servers. Pinterest counts those as Scope 3 emissions, which reside a little out of the company’s own sphere of influence. Fortunately for Pinterest, Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud computing provider, has committed to powering its operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025.

So with Pinterest’s carbon emissions mostly on path to be eliminated by 2025, what else is Thompson focusing on?

“Our ESG efforts to date have had four main focus areas, which are people, product, planet, and governance,” Thompson says, noting that Pinterest is “really focused on the ‘S’ side” of ESG, which is where Thompson feels Pinterest can have the most “impact.” 

That’s why Thompson isn’t just the CSO, she’s the chief public affairs officer, too. Combining those roles, Thompson says, allows Pinterest to have “a really cohesive strategy” across its efforts in public affairs, corporate giving, CSR, and social impact. Part of the job, as Thompson puts it, is figuring out which third-party organizations Pinterest should partner with to help serve the communities the company works in.

It’s wise that a company like Pinterest, with a minimal carbon footprint, has formalized its commitment to tackling all components of the ESG trilogy. As I said last week, the social aspect of ESG, while often forgotten, can have a significant material impact on a company’s performance—perhaps even more so when the environmental impact is so marginal.

Eamon Barrett


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