Automotive Leaders Discuss Navigating the Shift to Mobility

Automotive always has been a technology-driven industry, but in the next ten years, there is likely to be more change in the industry than there has been in the last hundred. And much of that change will be taking place in Michigan. That shift – which moves automotive toward becoming a more sustainable industry – was the topic of a Sept. 15, 2023, breakfast, “Navigating the Shift to Mobility – With Detroit as a Leader,” hosted by Inforum, a nonprofit focused on accelerating women’s careers. The themes included diversity, new opportunities that come with and from young and emerging talent, the power of partnerships, and the future of mobility. Panelists were: Aruna Anand, President and CEO, Automotive Group Sector; head of architecture and networking, Continental North America Kristen Tabar, group vice president, Advanced Mobility Research & Development, Toyota North America Paul Thomas, president, Mobility in Americas, Bosch (effective Jan. 1, 2024), and Alan Wexler, senior vice president, strategy, and innovation, General Motors Justine Johnson, chief mobility officer for the State of Michigan, moderated the discussion. Our takeaways follow: Thomas: When you look for talent, look for talent that looks different from you. Different countries, beliefs, and perspectives, you have to look for talent that has diverse opinions on solutions. The world isn’t as simple as you think it is sometimes. Taber: When students look for a job, remember that it is not a one-and-done deal. You may think this is your passion and you work in this space, but what we see is that people evolve. That cross-pollination and common way to move throughout your career and experience different aspects of this new mobility solution. It’s a completely different landscape that requires different skill sets and backgrounds. Anand: We need to see ourselves in those positions that we are aspiring to be. If you do not have representation, then you don’t know what it’s like and you don’t have the confidence to do something because it is not done. We need to increase the pipeline. Then you understand the reasons why you can’t do this or what else you can do to fix it. Wexler: We see a world with zero crashes, zero emissions, zero congestion. Taber: It is about the products that we put out, how we operate our businesses, and the ripple effect on our supply chains. We need very clear, measurable methods so we are using similar yardsticks. Thomas: We want to invest in communities, we invest in Detroit and the Midwest very heavily to bring mobility people into our companies. We are also always on the diversity journey. You will never know when you are done because diversity is something that you always must work on. Anand: We tend to want to be perfect before we try new things. We find reasons to not be good at things. What is stopping us? We need that coaching, mentoring, role models, all of that together to build that pipeline better. Wexler: (Talent recruitment) really starts with the “why.” … We need skillsets from other industries. We’re becoming more technology-oriented … we pioneer the innovations that move and connect people to what matters, so it’s who wants to be part of that purpose and do something impactful. Taber: We have to understand that none of us is going to be able to move the technology forward by ourselves. It is going to take partnerships that we probably wouldn’t have thought of ever before. Anand: If we can provide an environment that is flexible, then the talents will be able to grow. Thomas: The ecosystem is so large and the opportunities to do different things are available to each one of you in the room. There is so much information out there on how to get involved in mobility. Wexler: There isn’t another industry that has the same opportunity to heal the planet. Experience the full event here.    Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates on sustainable business practices in and around Detroit.

University of Michigan President Santa Ono Expands on Sustainability Agenda at SBND event

University of Michigan President Santa Ono has put sustainability and fighting climate change among his top priorities since he assumed the position in October. In addition to several programs and initiatives that are being expanded or developed, the university is now serving as the lead institution for the University Climate Change Coalition which convenes 23 leading North American universities to work toward climate action on campuses, in communities, and at a global scale. Ono spoke about his sustainability agenda for UofM at an April 5 luncheon attended by more than 250 stakeholders and business and organization leaders. The event was sponsored by the Erb Institute and hosted by the Sustainable Business Network Detroit and Inforum. Tom Lyon, faculty director at the Erb Institute, kicked off the event by saying, “As we build toward expertise on sustainability the challenge is to think globally and act locally together, and the state, the universities, businesses, and all sectors have to be involved.” John M. Erb, Erb Family Foundation chair, echoed that sentiment commenting, “We are all important stakeholders in balancing the needs of the people, planet, and economy and working toward a more sustainable future.” Working together and the need to connect the dots toward saving the planet were primary themes. Each of us is indispensable in responding to and resolving the biggest challenge our society has ever faced and solving this emergency transcends borders, Ono said. We need to come together in the form of a nexus to benefit us and all who follow us on this planet. Ono said the university benefits from strength in numbers with 800+ sustainability faculty members, 100+ student organizations, and 8,000 Planet Blue Ambassadors. He gave a special nod to students, saying, “Their passion has wowed me, and I have found that many times it’s the students who (first) identify and develop solutions.” Some of UofM’s sustainability priorities include moving to 100% renewable purchased power by 2025, building on-campus solar installations with a capacity of 25 megawatts across the Dearborn, Flint, and Ann Arbor campuses – including Michigan Medicine and athletics – and achieving LEED Platinum status for all buildings. Ono talked about the university’s historic ties with the city of Detroit and its responsibility toward it. “The university was established in 1817 at Cadillac Square in Detroit, and Mayor Duggan took me there saying that we have a great responsibility to the city, and he’s right.” On March 6, the university announced new commitments for the $250 million University of Michigan Center for Innovation, previously known as the Detroit Center for Innovation. The project is a collaboration with Stephen Ross, chairman and majority owner of Related Companies, and the Ilitch family. Ono noted that the center will accommodate academic and community programs to include three distinct types of activity—graduate education, talent-based community development, and community engagement—all in the service of economic development and job growth for Detroit. In the spirit of collaboration, Ono also pointed out that there were people attending the event from other Michigan universities and applauded this, saying, “We have our competition on the fields and courts, but getting closer to other Michigan educational institutions is very important to UofM. We need MSU to make advances in agritech, and Wayne State University is a critical component to making advances in the city. We all need to work together and we are starting to do more of that now.” Following his speech, Telva McGruder, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer for General Motors Co. and member of the advisory board for the UofM School for Environment and Sustainability, moderated a Q&A. Below are some of the key questions and takeaways. McGruder: What is your top priority as president of the University of Michigan? Ono: Addressing climate change. I’ve been very vocal that this is my number one priority. Michigan has to be a leader here. And that is the wish of the collective voices of the university as well. Students are actually pushing me, and I appreciate that so much. I have told them to hold my feet to the fire. McGruder: Regarding the notion of connecting the dots, how do you as a university leader – and how do leaders in other organizations – bring expertise together for progress? Ono: I think the different pieces of the puzzle that exist illustrate opportunity. One part of the secret sauce at UofM is that each director has the autonomy to dream and be bold. Now, we need to collaborate and form connections around these ideas. The faculty and leadership and students have wowed me with their collaborative spirit. McGruder: How can companies and organizations around the state connect with the efforts of the university? Ono: We are working on making a “front door” more clear.  We are going to invest and Identify someone to knit it together and act as the gatekeeper to reduce the barrier to communication inside and outside the university. McGruder: Progress sometimes means people changing ways of doing things and letting go so that we can move forward. What are your thoughts as we move forward toward carbon neutrality on some of the things we have to encourage communities to let go of? Ono: It goes both ways. Trust is a critical point. Leaders have to earn trust. We as a university have to go into communities knowing that we have as much to learn from them as they do from us. We as a university have made mistakes along the way, and so have other institutions and companies. Addressing that truthfully is a prerequisite to going into communities and working together. McGruder: When it comes to funding, how do we help decision-makers and leaders within all sectors understand the need to spend on sustainability efforts? Ono: Addressing the climate crisis is not a bottom-line budget issue it’s a social responsibility.  And what is the point of a strong financial standpoint if there’s no planet to exist on? A recording of the complete program can be found here:   Be sure

Wildlife Habitat Council Hosts its First Conference in Detroit 2022


On June 14 and 15, 2022 business leaders from all over the world convened at the Westin Book Cadillac to celebrate each other’s successes in conservation and biodiversity.  Hosted by the Wildlife Habitat Council, this 33rd annual conference took place in Detroit for the first time.  Says WHC President Margaret O’Gorman, “We chose Detroit because we work with many businesses in and around the city that are not only innovative from a business sense, but from a corporate social responsibility standpoint. These companies engage in a meaningful way with conservation and are forward-thinking when it comes to biodiversity. We celebrate that.”  What is the Wildlife Habitat Council?  The WHC’s mission is to promote and certify habitat conservation and management on corporate lands through partnerships and education through customized comprehensive services that help companies align conservation efforts with their business needs.  It works with private-sector businesses of all sizes and landscapes of all types… from buildings like the Renaissance Center to the Marathon Refinery to a quarry or copper mine. Its goal is to integrate nature into business operations to benefit community engagement and biodiversity.  When we are asked how businesses can get started, our answer is simply ‘do something.’ Our philosophy is that every act of conservation matters,” O’Gorman said. “We don’t need large tracts of land to make a positive impact. What we need is for companies to simply act for nature. That’s where the difference starts. Says Neil Hawkins, president of the Erb Family Foundation, former chief sustainability officer of Dow, and friend of the WHC, “This organization does a fantastic job of coaching companies both big and small and also assisting in doing the work.”  About the WHC Conservation Conference  This ‘comeback’ event – having been on a pandemic hiatus the last two years – was designed to bring companies together to celebrate accomplishments in conservation, share ideas, and shape strategies that can make a positive difference for biodiversity and business around the world.  Says O’Gorman, “There were two main goals of this event. The first was to simply highlight that there is a biodiversity crisis and that the private sector has a role to play in addressing it. The second was to provide recognition for corporate employees who are implementing high-quality projects on their land.”   As such, General Motors received the 2022 WHC Corporation Conservation Leadership Award, which recognizes one company’s overall excellence in conservation and signifies its exemplary commitment to biodiversity, conservation education, and alignment with global conservation objectives.  This year’s Employee Engagement Award was also given to General Motors. This award recognizes the exceptional contributions of a company’s employees to their habitat and conservation education activities.  Several other prestigious awards were presented. You can see the full list here.  A unique addition to this year’s conference was the Makers’ Pavilion, sponsored by the Erb Family Foundation and Sustainable Business Network Detroit, in which ten Detroit-area socially and environmentally focused artisans displayed and sold their work.  “This points to WHC’s focus on not only conservation projects, but social sustainability, inclusion, and equity,” said Hawkins.  What it Represents for Detroit  Many Detroit businesses are active with and involved in conservancy projects with the WHC. Detroit and its neighboring regions are home to 32% of WHC members.  The event – typically on the East Coast – being held in Detroit this year was significant.  I see this as such a great opportunity for Detroit. Hosting the WHC and companies across the globe in acknowledgment of the smart and hard conservation work being done toward biodiversity opens doors and eyes for other businesses in our area to follow suit, Hawkins shared. “Detroit city land has a long history of being taken over for industrial development and residential housing and conversely, decimating nature. Whatever we can bring back through corporate intervention is important.”  WHC Work in Detroit Detroit, like most major U.S. cities, faces modern problems such as poor air and water quality, unemployment, and degraded environmental conditions resulting from rapid urbanization.   Detroit companies, dedicated community groups, and the WHC are working together to combat these issues and find solutions.   The local work highlighted at the conference richly illustrates this.  Lionel Bradford, president of Greening Detroit, highlighted its Meyers Nursery Stormwater Retention Pond, installed at Rouge Park and designed to catch 11 acres of runoff from the site, plus hold back water equivalent to two back-to-back 100-year storms.  Another substantial project featured was the Stellantis Community Environmental Engagement Program. With its $1.6 billion construction of the Mack Assembly Plant just east of the city, Stellantis committed to a multi-layer environmental program with assistance and certification from the WHC to improve air quality, reduce stormwater, support wildlife, provide educational opportunities and collaborate with community organizations.   As part of this program, over 1,000 trees were planted as a green buffer; 100 rain barrels were provided to residents to save water and reduce water runoff; curriculum and programming through the WHC were delivered to local schools, and significant environmental installations were developed at nearby Chandler Park.  A collaborative program between Friends of the River Rouge and The Sierra Club called the Rain Gardens to the Rescue Program was presented, whereby 80 rain gardens were installed in homes to reduce stormwater runoff. This organically led to residents becoming much more involved – to the extent of some purchasing nearby lots to create additional rain gardens and community gathering spots.   Said O’Gorman, “The number of corporations intersecting with biodiversity shows that the spirit of conservation is alive and well in 2022. We celebrate the work being done because when nature is healthy and our ecosystem is restored, everything flows from there.”  Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates on sustainable business practices in and around Detroit.