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2017 Corporate Responsibility Summit Explores Stakeholder Expectations and Solutions to Complex Issues

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Helping automotive companies understand and navigate growing expectations from stakeholders on a broad range of corporate responsibility issues was the backbone of AIAG’s Corporate Responsibility Summit, held May 2-3, 2017, at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Michigan. Speakers addressed a variety of CR topics, providing the latest information to help participants understand the role of collaboration in the most complex sustainability challenges.

The annual Corporate Responsibility Summit helps AIAG members work collaboratively to improve ethically responsible approaches ranging from human rights and environmental responsibility to transparency throughout the supply chain. AIAG’s CR initiatives focus on social, environmental standards, and business ethics.

Throughout the two days, attendee-wide general sessions were complemented by break-out tracks that addressed human rights in the supply chain, environmental management, and globalizing sustainability. During an extended lunch period, participants selected topic-specific tables to continue the conversation in their own areas of interest or chose networking tables to expand their CR community.

Learning from a Non-Automotive Sustainability Leader
The Summit kicked off with a conversation with Dave Stangis, CSO of Campbell Soup, who urged attendees to reach out beyond their industry for CR expertise. “There’s a lot to learn,” Stangis said, “a lot of training that you can borrow from other industries.”

Noting that automotive professionals are “world leaders in sharing,” Stangis reminded the audience of the importance of also sharing sustainability ideas and initiatives with their colleagues in the industry. “There are learnings that you don’t want to compete on,” he said. “You want to share these strategies.”

Stangis shared several sustainability success stories at Campbell, explaining that when it comes to corporate responsibility, the key is to do what you can do as a company, using the knowledge, people, and resources you already have to help your community. He also stressed the importance of communicating success stories.

“Don’t be afraid of social media,” he told Summit attendees. “The first tip is to start. At Campbell, they want everyone to blog about what they do, to engage people with the technology, new initiatives, and open up transparency. Twitter is the easiest way to communicate what you’re doing. Instead of making 100 phone calls every day, share what you’re doing on Twitter. It is a habit that you have to get in to.

“Sharing these corporate responsibility stories is not just engaging in sustainability — it’s good business,” he concluded. “The point is not to wonder about the future of corporate responsibility. It’s more about the future of transportation and how you can leverage corporate responsibility to get there.”

Climate Change Reporting
In a session on climate change reporting, Dexter Galvin, head of supply chain for the Carbon Disclosure Project, noted that more people are using climate change data to make decisions about investing. “One of the biggest risks to the supply chain is regulations,” he said. “You have to help your suppliers figure out how to be resource efficient and manage their emissions. As purchasers, you can drive change.”

Continuing Stangis’s theme about sharing, he added, “Share your comprehensive climate strategy with your Tier One suppliers. When customers make a clear ask from the supplier to measure carbon emissions, the supplier will take action. 

He also stressed the importance of engaging suppliers on water, including the climate impact on water, and to work closely with suppliers to develop the access of local communities to water, especially in water-deprived areas. “And make sure the data is getting pushed out so that others are receiving it, too,” he said. “The collaboration point between customers and suppliers is really critical. There have been very good collaborations in logistics and lightweight materials that have come out of responses to environmental concerns.”

Look for more articles on the Corporate Responsibility Summit in future issues of this newsletter. AIAG members can access all the presentations from this year’s Corporate Responsibility Summit online at www.aiag.org.

Carla Kalogeridis is AIAG’s e-news editor.