From FastLane: GM’s VP of Sustainability Tells It Like It Is

GM's VP of Sustainability explains the company's take on sustainability and how future employees will help shape the automaker's environmental perspective.

The following blog was originally posted on GM’s Fast Lane blog. Read more about the workshop Mike Robinson took part in here.

Mike Robinson refers to himself as “fanatically pragmatic.”

During a panel at the annual Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference in Washington D.C., our vice president of sustainability and global regulatory affairs said GM looks at sustainability as a mainstream, long-term business strategy where decisions are driven by how to best take care of customers, employees and shareholders.

And since we’re running a business, these decisions need to make sense from a financial, people and environment perspective.

Mike was joined on his panel by representatives from International Paper, Alcoa and UPS to talk about sustainability and the bottom line.

The next wave of young professionals will come with a built-in sense of sustainability, as the generation has grown up with recycle bins at the curb.

When asked what big companies are looking for in new professionals, Mike said, “We look at it from the opposite perspective: Are we doing the best we can to attract the next generation of sustainability-oriented millennials? Because that’s what we stand for.”

On whether the auto industry itself is sustainable, he added that GM is looking at long-term demographics. With the middle class expected to double in size and consumers wanting more goods, societies will demand access.

This will require a level of integration among government and producers that doesn’t exist today, and it may mean less vehicles in some spaces and different vehicles in others. Necessity is the mother of invention, he said, and the industry in its current form is not sustainable.

Meanwhile, the company continues to apply efficiency fundamentals to not only its products, but also to how they are made. Mike discussed dedication to a clean economy through responsible manufacturing around the world.

He stated, “We do things we aren’t required to do. Seventy percent of our sales are outside the U.S., from plants in countries without regulation. We run those plants like they were in the U.S. You need to look long-term how to be a responsible corporate citizen.”