Meet A Steering Committee Member: Elise Zelechowski of Thoughtworks

Posted on October 28th, 2021

Elise Zelechowski is the Global Head of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Sustainability & Social Change at Thoughtworks 

Meet A Steering Committee Member: Elise Zelechowski of Thoughtworks

Tell us about your  career path, interest in green software and your journey to the Green Software Foundation 

I’ve spent most of my career developing and driving multi-stakeholder, multi-sector policy initiatives, with sustainability at the center of this work. 

At Thoughtworks, I lead our global office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Sustainability and Social Change which drives strategy for creating meaningful impact for our community stakeholders, for our clients and for our Thoughtworkers.

At the heart of this work is a commitment to Responsible tech. Responsible tech is a philosophy: to practice our craft with our stakeholders’ best interest in mind, including the whole of society as our stakeholders, particularly those who don’t often have a voice. Responsible tech  encompasses the environmental impact of our software.

 In my previous roles in city government, as a founder of a non-profit social enterprise and as an environmental consultant, I’ve worked to drive transformative change that centers equity and sustainability. 

 The work we’re doing today with the Green Software Foundation reminds me of the early days of the green building certification standard—LEED. The US Green Building Council developed the LEED rating system as a way to commonly understand the impacts, benchmarks and the changes necessary to develop our communities more sustainably. 

I was on the governing board of the Chicago Chapter of the US Green Building Council in those days and one of my earliest LEED consulting projects was certification of one of the largest buildings in the world.   

I believe that the US Green Building Council changed our understanding of what’s possible and transformed the field of planning, architecture and design.  I have the same aspirations for the Green Software Foundation and its potential impact on the field of information technology.

What do you, as an individual, expect to achieve by working with the Foundation and in green software? 

To enact real change, we need to build coalitions to establish a vision and agree on the solutions required to overcome systemic problems. 

Being part of the Green Software Foundation, and specifically the Community Working Group, enables me to apply my years of coalition building around sustainability solutions to addressing the big question of how we decarbonize tech.

What obstacles do you see to the cause of green software? How can we overcome them? 

I think our biggest obstacle right now is a lack of general awareness about the environmental impacts of software.  I think many people believe that “going virtual” necessarily means that we reduce our environmental footprint, which isn’t the case.  A big part of the Green Software Foundation’s mission is to build this awareness and activate people to take action—and not just technologists, we all have a part to play in advocating for greener software.

Check out what our other Steering Committee members say about green software

Jeff Sandquist of Microsoft

Erica Brescia of GitHub

Santiago Fontanarrosa of Globant

Toru Shimogaki of NTT DATA

Dan Lewis-Toakley of Thoughtworks

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Nilooka Dissanayake
Nilooka DissanayakeEditor & Content Creator