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General Motors: Social and Environmental Issues Inseparable

(Photo: Chevrolet Bolt EV autonomous test vehicles are assembled at General Motors Orion Assembly in Orion Township, Michigan. Credit: Jeffrey Sauger for General Motors)

General Motor’s sustainability director David Tulauskas said that all environmental and energy issues have social implications as well. He spoke about making the social business case during a plenary session at the Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference in Denver.

The environmental business case is pretty well understood now, but the social part of ESG is where GM and many other companies still have difficulty, Tulauskas said.

“Going beyond your fence line, where variables are beyond your control, that’s where we struggle,” he told the conference attendees on Tuesday. “Improving the communities where you operate, that business case is still not very well understood. We need to do a better job articulating it.”

During the session on sustainability’s role in strengthening business, Tulauskas underscored GM’s vision for a future with zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion. As it pursues these goals, the automaker is trying not to separate environmental issues from social ones.

“It’s easy to talk about them as separate things, but every single day, the decisions you’re making that have environmental implications, have social implications,” he said.

Session moderator Bill Ritter, Jr., former governor of Colorado and current director of the Center for the New Energy Economy, agreed. “In the auto industry, as trucking, medium- and light-duty vehicles automate over time, the truck driver job in America is going to be affected in a big way, and that has its own social implications that are going to be massive,” he said.

Tulauskas also pointed out that the energy and environmental opportunities that the professionals in the room are pursuing all have social benefits as well.

“If you want to be a respected leading company that attracts great talent, that delivers great financial returns, and has huge loyalty rates, you need to be operating in ways that address environmental issues and social issues,” he said.

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