“I grew up in the South of Italy in a city near Naples, where my community experienced several episodes of the waste crisis,” Ornella Cosomati, 2023 Obama Foundation Europe Leader reflected. “The lack of waste collection and illegal waste dumping led to significant disruption all around the region, and schools were often closed and people couldn’t walk in the streets due to waste piling up. On very hot days the smell was unbearable.”
Ornella says her passion for the environment began at home and her experiences propelled her toward a career path that would help create a more sustainable future.
“While at university, I became the annoying housemate trying to convince everyone of the importance of separate waste collection. I started studying environmental policy in the international relations context, and together with like-minded students from all over Europe, we established the Students’ European Network for Sustainable Development (SENSD),” Cosomati shared. “SENSD was a non-profit organization aimed at sharing sustainability best practices across universities, targeting both students and universities’ administrations. We brought recycling systems on campuses across Europe, shared business models to encourage local foods or vegetarian offerings in universities’ canteens, and raised awareness about sustainability.”
Today, Ornella is the Director of Sustainability Policy at Microsoft. She leads Microsoft’s EU sustainability policy engagement on circular economy and corporate sustainability reporting, supporting the business in the design of Microsoft devices and servers so that they meet the requirements set by ecodesign rules at EU level or in the reporting of the company’s greenhouse gas emissions in line with EU legislation.
“I am proud to work for a company committed to accelerate progress toward a more sustainable future by reducing our environmental footprint, accelerating research, helping our customers build sustainable solutions, and advocating for policies that benefit the environment,” she shared.
Cosomati says the support she’s received from the Obama Foundation Leaders Europe program has been invaluable.
“I am constantly amazed by the intellectual caliber of everyone in the program. I am inspired by their stories and achievements. I love to hear different perspectives on the similar challenges we may be facing and the solutions we are creating,” she said.
Cosomati says her goal is to create lasting environmental change in Europe. She believes business can play a big role in accelerating climate action.
“We often think that change in global business can take time, and that’s not wrong. Patience is a needed virtue, but when change does happen it has an immediate scale that is unimaginable anywhere else,” Cosomati said.