Communication is Key: Microsoft’s Chief Environmental Officer

By Lana Ayoub, Communications Manager, ADG

During our last Sustainability Council meeting, we were given a treat when Lucas Joppa, Microsoft’s Chief Environmental Officer spoke to us.

He shared the journey he made to his current role with us, highlighting what motivated him and lessons learned along the way.  From a young age, Lucas always believed that “nature makes the human world go around” and he is a firm believer that the global economy is predicated on the availability of natural resources. As he told our attendees, Regardless of the industry, “every single aspect of the overall human experience is predicated on the availability and abundance on natural resources”.

So with this mindset, Lucas combined his passion for science and the environment in his studies, landing him an opportunity to join Microsoft’s Blue Sky Research Division. Their task was to think 50 years ahead and how they could lead research programs that fell at the intersection of environmental and computer science. It was this experience that led Luca to develop what is now known as Microsoft’s “AI for Earth” program. One of the foremost lessons Lucas learned in getting AI for Earth started was this: words matter. Before it off the ground, Lucas had sent an email explaining his vision for the program, as a cross-company program to combine all the environmental work undertaken in his research division with deploy the best AI technology to tackle important societal topics such as climate, agriculture and water. Initially the idea received no responses. Months later after a conversation with a colleague who said she found the email he’d shared difficult to understand, Lucas explained it as “AI for Earth”, and that was that.

Once the communication became more clear, and the language aligned with that of the company (Microsoft) as well as their culture, the initiatives of the AI for Earth program took off and interest in it was elevated. Having a big vision like ADG’s “By 2025, ADG has the set the target to be ranked amongst the global top five wholly-owned family businesses in terms of contributing to the SDGs” is exactly what an organization needs to become a leader in sustainable practices across the world.

After an insightful talk, our ADG audience had a bit of time leftover for Q&A with Lucas, ending the session on an energetic note, with  sustainability council members remaining determined to forge their path forward, and make their sustainable mark.