On Monday, March 27, Mayor Mike Duggan announced the appointment of Jack Akinlosotu as the city’s new Director of the Office of Sustainability. Akinlosotu brings 10 years of experience in providing policy, business, and program developments across U.S. cities on climate action planning in the public and private sectors.
In 2017, Mayor Duggan created the City’s first Office of Sustainability, with the support of Bloomberg Associates, to coordinate and lead the city’s sustainability initiatives and create healthy, green, vibrant, accessible neighborhoods where all Detroiters can contribute and benefit.
As early as 2014, however, the city of Detroit began its work on sustainability initiatives, when it became the first major city in America to convert its entire street lighting system to more energy efficient LED lights. Since then, the city also launched the Renew Detroit Program to replace roofs for low-income seniors to conserve energy, as well as a basement backup protection program to make homes in flood-prone areas more resilient against basement backups. The city recently converted its entire municipal parking department fleet of 48 vehicles to all-electric and has deployed four electric buses as part of the bus fleet conversion. Work also is progressing on the first three miles of the Joe Louis Greenway, 26-mile recreational loop repurposing miles of vacant railroad right-of-way into a pathway that will connect neighborhoods across the city to its nationally recognized riverfront.
Before coming to Detroit, Akinlosotu has worked on the development of multifaceted sustainability policy and programming in Washington DC, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle. Since 2021, he served as the senior product manager at Oracle Energy & Water, where he led partnership outreach and software development of the limited income solution that is meant to help people connect with programs to help lower their utility bills. Prior to that, he worked as the energy program specialist at the D.C. Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) to coordinate multiple renewable energy projects, including community accessibility to solar power, electric vehicles, and green financing.
“Detroiters already have been experiencing the very real impacts of climate change, such as rising water levels and more extreme weather,” said Mayor Duggan. “We are going to take sustainability into consideration with everything we do as a city, whether it’s our buildings, our vehicle fleet or how we are using our publicly owned land, and we’re fortunate to have Jack to lead our effort.”
In his new role, Akinlosotu will work closely with city departments to lead the implementation of the city’s climate strategy. The strategy seeks to strategically combat the effects of climate change, including clean energy, building decarbonization and energy efficiency, fleet electrification, and resilience.
Akinlosotu plans to focus on air quality to address the high asthma rates in the Detroit area, which shows a 74% higher prevalence of current asthma among children compared to children in Michigan according to a 2021 report by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. In addition, Akinlosotu aims to mitigate the city’s higher energy burden of low-income households, which is 3.7 times higher than non-low-income households.
Raquel Garcia, executive director of Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision is looking forward to working with the new director of the City’s Office of Sustainability. “There are so many critical air and water quality projects that directly impact residents’ health and affect their quality of life, she said. “We are impressed with Akinlosotu’s work in New York. Assisting businesses with the reduction of energy use, reduction of emissions is not only saves businesses money but improves air quality. We are excited to gain his insight on the decarbonization plan at the Port of Detroit. SDEV and our environmental justice colleagues are eager to engage with the city on many projects.”
Moving forward, the city will focus on the software development of limited income solution programs that will help residents be more energy efficiency and lower their utility bills.
“There is a great deal of opportunity in Detroit to be more creative in developing lasting sustainability,” said Akinlosotu. “The sustainability programs we need will be a transformative leap for Detroit, including the deployment of renewable energy options that make sure people that have limited incomes have equitable access and opportunity. We are here to make sure no one is left out.”
City partnering with Bloomberg Associates
The city of Detroit is partnered with Bloomberg Associates, the philanthropic consulting arm of Bloomberg Philanthropies, to strengthen its sustainability and climate efforts toward improving the quality of life for residents.
After leading a robust community engagement process with over 6,000 residents and interdepartmental collaboration, the city published the Detroit Sustainability Action Agenda in 2019. The Agenda set forth four outcomes to guide the city’s climate readiness vision: healthy, thriving people; affordable, quality homes; clean, connected communities; and equitable, green city.
“Through his work inside and outside of municipal government, Jack has a demonstrated track record of delivering tangible impacts for residents and helping cities reduce their greenhouse gas emissions through bold climate action. His passion, experience, and commitment to ensuring all communities benefit from the energy transition are a tremendous asset for Detroit and Mayor Duggan’s climate agenda,” said Adam Freed, Principal at Bloomberg Associates.
The city is working on the development of a long-term Climate Strategy to guide Detroit’s resilience and mitigation efforts for years to come. The strategy’s key priorities include increasing resiliency by centering the needs of vulnerable residents, building out EV charging infrastructure, city fleet electrification, transitioning to clean power, and efficient and electric buildings.
“We are excited to build on the good work the city has done towards our sustainability efforts. A Detroit Climate Strategy is being finalized to include action steps to increase resiliency and energy efficiency, in addition to building an infrastructure to support the transition to zero emissions vehicles. Akinlosotu’s experienced leadership will bring us closer to achieve the goals of increasing the use of clean energy, improving building efficiency and protecting vulnerable residents,” said Trisha Stein, who oversees Detroit’s sustainability initiatives as the city’s chief strategy officer.
Akinlosotu also has conducted several research projects including carbon sequestration, U.S. green finance program, and the evaluation of New York City Mayor’s Office sustainability plan. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Geography at University of Arizona. He also earned a Master of Professional Studies in Sustainable Urban Planning and at George Washington University.
He is looking forward to engaging residents, particularly vulnerable communities with low incomes, to collaboratively inform and build equitable measures toward sustainability developments in Detroit.