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GM Sustainability Head: Challenges, Initiatives & ‘Where We Go From Here’

What are top professionals in the environmental responsibility space thinking about in terms of sustainability management? What are their challenges and next steps? Here’s what one practitioner shared during the first day of the Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference (#ELEMCON18).


David Tulauskas, Sustainability Director, General Motors

  • GM’s vision is to drive toward a future where transportation is defined as zero accidents, zero emissions, zero congestion. “Transportation is a leading emitter of GHG emissions. We have an opportunity to bring that to zero.”
  • How does the company drive long-term value? “We redefine the way we operate. Like with waste: we look at it not as something to get rid of but just a material that is out of place. It’s a mindset. We come to work every day thinking about how we can do our work differently. I look at my job not only in terms of financial outcomes but also in terms of minimizing environmental impacts. It doesn’t happen overnight, but every day it’s an action that you take, and actions become habits.”
  • Investors care about your company’s sustainability performance more now than ever. If you can improve sustainability management, you’re building a better, stronger, long-term company with a lower risk value.
  • Every time you can work more efficiently, you’re improving the bottom line.
  • If your company is not using renewable energy, you’re leaving money on the table.
  • GM uses a lot of power purchase agreements with fixed rates. “That helps us address long-term risk.”
  • Corporate culture is the most underrated, under-appreciated asset a company has. A company is made up of people, and company culture is its behavior. “That has to be set at the top. Executives must ask, ‘what are our behaviors and what is going to be allowed at our company?’”
  • The days of having to prove the business case of sustainability are gone. “You don’t need to address that anymore because the business case has been made.” What hasn’t been as clearly defined is the business case for being a “force for good” in terms of social impacts. “That’s what we need to do a better job of selling to our CFO.”
  • Supply chain: Be realistic. “With a long, complex supply chain, we have to understand that at this moment, someone somewhere in the supply chain is doing something bad. For a long time, all we could do was focus on our first tier suppliers, but that’s no longer good enough.”
  • Constantly evolving sustainability initiatives: “We know that we want to look at sustainable rubber. People say, ‘what does that mean?’ Well, we’re not really sure yet. But we have to look into it. That’s something we need to learn.”
  • Never miss the opportunity to take advantage of a good crisis.

Stay tuned this week for more knowledge from #ELEMCON18.

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