Top Down and Bottom Up: GM Leadership and Employees Learn from Climate Expert

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Top Down and Bottom Up: GM Leadership and Employees Learn from Climate Expert

Ceres president provides valuable insight on GM's sustainability performance
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.@GM FastLane: Top Down and Bottom Up: GM leadership and employees learn from @MindyLubber, president of @CeresNews

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Friday, January 16, 2015 - 10:30am

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Since the early 90s, GM has engaged with Ceres, a nonprofit advocating for sustainability leadership. The group serves as a straight-talking external advisor giving us perspective on a number of sustainability initiatives. While its president, Mindy Lubber, was in Detroit for our annual stakeholder meetings and the North American International Auto Show, she took time to meet with a group of employees from various departments such as HR, finance, policy, communications and sustainability for a roundtable discussion.

Employees wanted to know: What do others think of GM’s performance on climate change and how can they help continue the progress?

As a climate expert advising leaders at the United Nations, New York Stock Exchange, World Economic Forum and American Bar Association, Lubber understands how sustainability strengthens a company’s bottom line by bringing profits to shareholders, commitments to communities and salaries to employees. She is a contributor to Huffington Post and Forbes blogs on how companies can integrate environmental challenges into business strategy.

During the candid conversation, Lubber discussed how the private sector can bring social and environmental change.

“The power of a company like GM can chart a future,” she said. “We need to work more closely with the private sector to see sustainability issues as a corporate theme, not as philanthropy or as a nice thing to do.”

According to Lubber, we’ve made significant progress since those first meetings with Ceres.

“Two decades ago, auto companies weren’t talking sustainability or making commitments. Back then there were so many things to change, but GM said it was a journey they wanted to be on. You have a long way to go, but have delivered an enormous amount of progress.”

She then referenced the tweet President Barack Obama sent when we signed the Ceres BICEP Climate Declaration. And who would have thought back then that GM would be collaborating with the White House on fuel economy standards.

The concept of ongoing stakeholder engagement, continuous improvement and discussions about sustainability at the highest levels proves effective. Lubber says change happens with clout, power and the stakeholders that matter most: investors, customers and employees.

She explained it this way:

“You can’t create change if you don’t have investors saying it’s OK to invest in sustainability. Customers are starting to say, ‘we want cars that are the future model of transportation’ — EVs, hybrids. And employees are motivated by companies doing honest, good work; sustainability gives you that edge to recruit the best and brightest.”

GM employee Tom Wickham made an observation on the power of employees.

“It’s about how we can influence change through our employees. It’s the things we do on a voluntary basis such as voluntary river cleanups and recycling drives. We need to get people to understand it’s more than just what we’re doing at work— cultural, social change happens at home, too.

“If every one of our 219,000 employees did three things in the community…that’s social impact,” he said.

Lubber closed with a compelling statement:

“You couldn’t be more impactful with your shared clout, weight, power, resources, and supply chain. Without question, competition in the sector is alive and well and when you do good things, people will follow.”

Keywords: Environment & Climate Change | CERES | Ceres BICEP Climate Declaration | Corporate Social Responsibility | GM | General Motors | Green Business | NAIAS | North American International Auto Show | Sustainability Professionals | mindy lubber

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