David Tulauskas, director of sustainability for General Motors, understands how energy and environment practitioners can tie their daily work to business value, strengthen relationships with departments such as investor relations and supply chain, and create a culture that empowers all employees to contribute to the momentum. Tulauskas will kick off ELEMCON 2018 with a session titled Sustainability’s Role in Strengthening Your Business. Environmental Leader caught up with Tulauskas to share his ideas on how to generate business value through relationships with all areas of a business.
Q: What is the relationship that exists for or should exist between sustainability professionals and C-level executives?
Tulauskas: Priorities are set at the C level and that establishes the long-term strategies for the company. Critical ones are customers; but then also shareholders. And then you have communities, employees, suppliers, distributors, and so forth. From there we get the vision and the strategy — basically a promise to stakeholders.
People working in operations — energy, environmental, and health and safety professionals — really sit at a critical juncture in a company to help meet that long-term promise. As you think about the ways to drive value and align with those strategies, you can do it by driving incremental revenue or top-line growth; you can do it by improving bottom-line cost-savings and cost avoidance; and you can do it by reducing company risk. At an operational level, that’s a unique nexus between the company and the community in which it operates. To customers, it’s a clear promise to operate responsibly. And so there is great value at an operational level to generating bottom-line savings that are aligned with long-term business strategy and to keep the promises to stakeholders. Energy efficiency is an obvious savings. Every time a company operates more efficiently, it’s saving money, obviously; but it’s also reducing long-term risks related to energy cost volatility. And all those things can be translated and communicated to shareholder value, to customer value, and to other stakeholders, and also to continued support or social license to operate in the communities in which the company operates.
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