Kara Hurst, first sustainability executive in Amazon

Amazon has hired Kara Hartnett Hurst, CEO of The Sustainability Consortium, to be its first sustainability executive.

The company has not announced Hurst’s hiring and declined to comment on it. A recent memo sent to members of The Sustainability Consortium — a research group whose members include businesses with combined revenues exceeding $2.4 trillion — said only that she’d “accepted an executive position at Amazon to head up sustainability for the company”.

Amazon has been largely AWOL from the sustainability scene. Amazon touts some energy-efficiency, green building and packaging innovations; it has not publicly reported its impacts, performance or commitments, if any. The company shuns industry collaborations such as Green Grid, a membership group of IT companies working to improve energy and resource efficiency of data centers. It doesn’t publish a sustainability report or report greenhouse gas emissions to CDP. But now, Hurst will arrive at Amazon in October with nearly two decades’ experience working in tech and sustainability.

There is precedent in another iconic tech company: Apple. Barely two years ago, it was similarly villainized by environmental and labor groups for its recalcitrance to play by activists’ rules. It took the hiring of a strong and high-profile sustainability executive, former EPA head Lisa Jackson, to turn the company around. In relatively short order, Apple moved to the front of the class, winning praise from activists, including Greenpeace.

It’s unclear whether Hurst can be equally influential with her new employer. But she has a lot of experience, so it is very probable.