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  • Age
    38
  • Title
    Chief environmental officer
  • Company
    Microsoft

Early this year, Microsoft made an astonishing commitment: It would become carbon neutral—scratch that, carbon negative—by the decade’s end. In other words, Microsoft would, by 2030, make up for all of the carbon dioxide it has emitted since Microsoft’s inception in 1975. The Herculean task falls to Lucas Joppa, the software giant’s first-ever chief environmental officer. Whereas a chief sustainability officer may focus on a corporation’s internal initiatives, Joppa’s job entails planetary-scale responsibilities. After eight years blending computer science and conservation efforts in Microsoft’s blue-sky research division, he proposed a program called AI for Earth that now supports organizations developing new environmental technologies with tens of millions of dollars in grants. Microsoft is now testing some novel tech itself, including using renewable energy in the form of hydrogen fuel cells to power computer servers and data centers outfitted with e-waste recycling centers. In a post on LinkedIn, Joppa recently described his jump from academia—he holds a Ph.D. in ecology from Duke University—to the private sector as “a bet that has paid off many times over” and that outstripped “any expectations I ever had.”

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