This is a blog series about Climate Leads—the internal champions driving decarbonization initiatives within their companies.
Sophia Gluck is the ESG and Sustainability Lead at Okta, an identity management company building a world where everyone can safely use any technology—anywhere, on any device or app. We recently profiled Okta’s climate program, which includes validated Science-based targets and a focus on engaging its supply chain to set science-based targets.
Tell us about your career path. How did you start working on climate?
I started my career in finance and it gave me a great foundation for quantitative analysis work, but I ultimately realized that I wanted a role that connected more directly to my personal values related to climate. I started working on Apple’s ESG team focusing on the investor perspective, where I helped build out the planning and reporting strategy for our investors. I got to work on Apple’s inaugural ESG report and my passion was sparked! After this experience, I wanted to work at a company that was earlier in its journey focusing on both ESG and sustainability, and I found Okta, where I’ve now been for a year and a half. We’ve been able to accomplish so much in that time frame!
What are you most proud of in your climate work so far?
Last June we announced that we were committed to investing in 100% renewable electricity to reduce the GHG emissions of our cloud service providers. I led this initiative, and there are two reasons why it’s exciting: 1) public commitments from our company leadership help further climate work across the industry, and will hopefully influence many companies to follow our lead and 2) this was a successful use case of integrating sustainability into the rest of the business. To be successful, sustainability work can't be siloed within one part of the organization. Cross-functional buy-in and support is the best way to build a climate program that really has integrity. Being able to work with the teams that manage our cloud service providers and discuss how we can weave in sustainability was invigorating for everyone involved.
“Cross-functional buy-in and support is the best way to build a climate program that really has integrity.”Sophia Gluck
What value does a climate program bring to Okta?
Climate work helps us in many ways. It helps us meet our stakeholders’ requests. First, investors are keenly interested in understanding what Okta is doing in the ESG space. Second, there is a lot of data showing that employees want to work for companies that are taking action on climate, and we’ve found this to be true at Okta as well. Third, climate helps with retaining our customers. We’re getting an increasing number of questions from our current customers about our ESG programs, in particular our climate work. This isn’t surprising because we’re conducting the same type of engagement with our vendors to request they set climate targets. We’re able to answer these questions with real information about investments we’re making to limit our impact, so I see climate having an influence on this ongoing business.
What keeps you optimistic about the future?
Three things give me a lot of hope:
- The innovation that is emerging to make it easier to take action on climate and to focus on investing in this space.
- Recent legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act and the Loss and Damage fund that came out of COP27 (the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference) to support vulnerable countries.
- The people that I work with and my peers in the climate community who are so dedicated, brilliant, and always willing to provide guidance.
What advice do you have for people who are just kicking off climate work right now?
Go through doors that are already open to you rather than beating down the big doors that might not be open yet. We talk a lot about the idea of ‘crawl, walk, run’ at Okta; we always had ambitious goals in mind, but we started out small and gained momentum and support.
When talking to stakeholders on other teams, frame the narrative of climate work in a way that will support their work. Some examples include: with sales, I talk about how being a climate forward vendor can help us win RFPs (requests for proposal). Our team tracks the influence that our work has on RFPs, and our data strongly supports that climate programs help win business. With procurement, I talk about how long-term relationships with vendors that have stronger climate programs are helping build resilience.
Where do you go to learn more about climate or hear the latest?
On LinkedIn I follow several amazing women in this space, including Alison Taylor, a professor at NYU and who has interesting perspectives on ESG and corporate sustainability, and Katharine Hayhoe, Chief Scientist at The Nature Conservancy.
I’m also in a graduate program for Sustainability Management at The Earth Institute at Columbia University's Climate School. All of my peers are in totally different spaces from reducing microplastic runoff in the ocean to working at electric vehicle companies, and I learn so much!