Platforms Staff Up for Net Zero Carbon

New roles will help shape billions of dollars of investment over the next decade

More companies are adopting net zero-emission targets, including platform companies.  These targets typically require significant changes in resource allocation, investment and even the firm’s underlying business model.  These changes may be minor if the emissions profile of the company is relatively light on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  However, they can be quite substantial, even daunting, depending on the company’s scale, energy load, and location of their energy-consuming assets. 

The scale of the effort is profound, given the size to which the world’ largest platforms have grown.  Take the case of Amazon.  According to the most recent figures released by the company, it now has a total of 206 renewable energy projects globally, including 71 utility-scale wind and solar projects, and 135 solar rooftops on facilities and stores worldwide. In Europe, Amazon has become the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy, with more than 2.5 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity.  This is the equivalent of powering more than 2 million European homes a year.1

Collectively, the big platforms will spend billions on carbon reduction efforts over the next decade and beyond. Carbon reduction can also shape the terms of customer engagement. For example, the oil and gas sector spends $1.3 billion on cloud computing.  Amazon, Google and Microsoft have been criticized for selling AI and other technologies that enable oil and gas production. Google is the first major platform company to pledge to stop developing specialized AI tools for the oil and gas industry.2

The Search for New Talent

To develop and execute a strategy and roadmap to meet net zero emissions goals requires specialized talent.  Since these capabilities mostly do not exist in-house or they need to be expanded, many platforms must look beyond their immediate organization and hire new knowledge and experience.  Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google and Microsoft all have active carbon-related job searches underway.  The table below highlights five such roles. 

Let’s look at each of these roles in turn. 

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Position: Sustainability Program Manager, Carbon

Company: Facebook

Location: San Jose

This role will serve as part of the Sustainability team, which is responsible for strategy, programs and engagement across the company and externally. The Program Manager will lead a portfolio of greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction projects as part of Facebook’s climate change initiatives. This role will be responsible for collaborating with the carbon team to identify long term pathways to reduce Facebook’s GHG footprint and will support internal teams in implementing reductions. This role will also shape the financial and economic analysis that informs strategic planning for carbon-related programs, such as an evaluation of policy and market trends and climate-related financial analysis on topics such as: climate risk, prioritization of reduction activities, and technical evaluation of partnerships and technologies. 

The role also requires an understanding of carbon markets and evolving policy and technology related trends in support of Facebook’s strategic planning.  Facebook expects a minimum of 12+ years of experience in corporate sustainability or related field with experience building climate-related financial models and risks assessments

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Position: Technical Project Manager – Hydrogen & Fuel Cells

Company: Amazon

Location: Seattle

Role: Technical Project Manager – Hydrogen & Fuel Cells.  In 2019, Amazon co-founded the Climate Pledge and committed to be net zero carbon across its businesses by 2040.  It has further identified hydrogen as one of the strategic areas it would focus on to meet the pledge. Since this time Amazon has been assembling the capabilities needed to deliver pilots and specific technology solutions for the company’s various verticals to adopt hydrogen and fuel cells. The Technical Project Manager will be responsible for multiple programs focused on the development of hydrogen infrastructure and testing fuel cells in different stationary and mobile applications. The PM will be expected to partner with various stakeholders like engineering, safety, operations, learning, and maintenance to implement solutions, all the while generating excitement for the customer experience. The role is critical in ensuring that the right technology and technology partners are identified, vocalized, and defended for transition to deployment.  It also impacts a global set of stakeholders, and therefore requires the ability to consider a diverse set of viewpoints to ensure that pilot, training, adoption and engagement are appropriate to the locale. 

Candidates are expected to have a combination of business, engineering (Mechanical or Electrical preferred), or related field, 5+ years of experience in project or program management, knowledge of hydrogen infrastructure and/or hydrogen fuel cells is desirable, 3+ years of experience working with vendors, and 2+ years of experience creating visualizations using data, writing and presenting documents to senior leaders

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Position: Data Analyst, Sustainability

Company: Netflix

Location: Los Gatos

This role sits with the Netflix Sustainability Office within Finance and be responsible for leading implementation of Netflix's Net Zero + Nature by 2022 commitment to Reduce, Retain and Remove carbon. Implement internal emission reduction strategy across operations and productions with cross-functional team, lead investment strategy for nature-based solutions and curate high-quality offset portfolio.  Collaborate with Production Finance, Product, and other stakeholders (e.g., Data Science Engineering) to source, automate, and analyze data from company operations, including production, to measure and monitor greenhouse gas emissions and other sustainability-related metrics.  Prepare and analyze a variety of greenhouse gas and spend data, with a special focus on historical production spend data. Research, assess, and implement software solutions to automate, visualize and analyze data across Netflix.  Perform scenario and ad-hoc analyses to inform sustainability strategies and opportunities for the most meaningful reductions, Update business information tools, spreadsheets, and presentations to ensure they reflect the latest information, and identify improvements to our workflow.  Candidates must be able to analyze large datasets and communicate any gaps, questions, and/or assumptions clearly and concisely.

The position requires 5+ years of experience in GHG accounting, corporate finance, studio finance and/or production operations.  A background in management consulting, investment banking, or accounting is preferred.  Further, they must of experience conducting quantitative and qualitative financial and operational analyses and working with complex and unstructured datasets and be adept at running advanced data analytic software.

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Position: Sustainability Lead, Global Infrastructure

Company: Google

Location: San Francisco

This role is responsible for coordinating new sustainability strategies for Google’s data centers and cloud infrastructure, the largest sources of the company’s carbon emissions.  In this role, you will engage closely with data center strategy, delivery, and operations teams to identify and execute sustainability opportunities across the data center life cycle. You will coordinate across many existing data center sustainability efforts to build a cohesive strategy and execution plan with metrics to track performance. You will work with the Google Cloud teams to develop scalable tools and products for cloud customers. You will also be responsible for advocating for our sustainability efforts, coordinating activities across teams, and developing new opportunities for sustainability initiatives.  Develop the overall data center sustainability strategy in conjunction with cross-functional teams including data center design, construction, and operations. Manage a team to build the program, identify new opportunities, partner with related teams, engage the data center business units, and execute the strategy. Be a primary spokesperson for data center sustainability topics and ensure recognition for the work Google data centers is doing through advocating and engaging in relevant industry groups, public policy forums, and helping to influence public policy and industry standards.

The role requires a minimum of 10 years of experience in corporate sustainability, energy, climate, or relevant non-governmental organization (NGO) working with corporations.  It requires effective analytical skills including the ability to develop business cases, supervise development of analytics and metrics, set goals, and identify gaps and opportunities for new projects and programs. Candidates are expected to have excellent program management skills and comfort dealing with ambiguity.  They are also expected to have industry perspective including broad networks with NGOs, relevant academic institutions, industry best practices, and leading-edge sustainability trends and concepts.

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Position: Principal Product Manager, Microsoft Sustainability Calculator

Company: Microsoft

Location: Atlanta

Microsoft has pledged to become carbon negative by 2030 and spend $1B doing so.  The Sustainability Calculator team is part of the internal organizational investment the company is making to achieve the target.  This team is tasked with developing new features and tools, improve existing services, and ensure sustainability is part of engineering work across the company. The Principal Product Manager will be part of this new team and will be responsible for helping business units make sustainable decisions and vitrifiable GHG emission reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  As a senior product manager, you will provide product leadership and strategy while delivering the next horizon of Dynamics 365 Sustainability solution to our global, and rapidly growing customer base.

The position requires at least 8+ years of field experience in environmental science, corporate sustainability, supply chain management, business or related field.  It requires 8+ years of demonstrated experience with customers and/or executive facing presentation and communication skills.  It requires 8+ years of product/program management experience and 8+ years working with cross-functional teams that include engineering teams, UXresearch, design, and marketing.  Finally, it requires 8+ years of developing product/market fit, customer & competitive research, roadmap definition, backlog prioritization, and/or experience definition for user-facing application experiences. 

Getting the Talent Mix Right

Each of these roles will attract hundreds of applications.  Given their position as among the world’s most attractive companies to work for, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google and Microsoft will be able attract the best and brightest talent.3  There is little no doubt about this.  However, it is worth noting that none of the job posts mention platform capabilities.  All the roles are framed as technical requiring expertise in either data analytics such as the Netflix role or emerging technologies, such as green hydrogen as in the in the Amazon role. The ability to work with and or manage NGOs is a plus, as highlighted in the Google job description. None of the roles mention or require platform expertise. 

As I wrote in April, the role of energy-related platforms has evolved and is looking more promising.4 There are now at least 5 ways that platform business models are helping to transition away from carbon-intensive energy sources. Platforms can accelerate technology deployment, collaborative consumption, and aggregation & trading in ways that can speed carbon reduction goals.  Platform strategies can also enhance the delivery of complex energy services, such as corporate clean energy power purchase agreements.  Platform strategies can also shape ways of engaging freelance and expert networks with specialized clean energy knowledge and capabilities that speed deployment. 

Platform strategies for achieving net zero carbon goals may be well understood at the big platform companies. However, this is not a given.  Indeed, it would be a missed opportunity and perversely ironic if the companies that leveraged platform business models to reach the pinnacle of the Fortune 500 did not apply the same platform logic to bringing their emissions under control.