Embracing the Disruption

Embracing the Disruption

GM’s Director of Sustainability Sees Opportunity in Industry Changes & Challenges
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.@GM FastLane Guest Post: @davidtulauskas, GM director of #sustainability is embracing the disruption http://bit.ly/17ETkzr

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015 - 5:10pm

CAMPAIGN: GM Greener Vehicles


David Tulauskas credits much of his career success to being at the right place at the right time. As a college graduate in the field of mechanical engineering with a background in environmental issues, he was a perfect candidate for the automotive industry when the U.S. Clean Air Act was amended to include stricter standards on gasoline emissions.

As a new grad, the last place David wanted to end up was back in his hometown. He’d held summer internships in the Czech Republic, Finland and a stint in Oregon working for Intel. But after graduation, the opportunity as a regulatory analyst at General Motors presented itself, and his background made him the perfect fit. He helped GM contribute to the development and implementation of new standards placed on evaporative and refueling emissions, acting as a liaison between engineers and regulators at both the EPA and the California Resource Board.

During his 23 years at GM, David’s assignments have been diverse, ranging from being a “plant rat shoveling sludge”, to leading the launch of the first five Cadillac vehicles in China, to being a registered lobbyist in California. David’s current position as director of sustainability did not previously exist.

David views sustainability as a business approach, or mindset, that creates long-term business value by maximizing economic returns and societal benefits while minimizing environmental impacts. It’s also about seeing new business opportunities in addressing social and environmental challenges. Every day he’s driving value for GM by helping the company operate more sustainably, keeping in mind advice he received from the plant manager he worked with early in his career.

“He told us he wanted us to come to work every day looking to make a difference in GM, and I did that throughout the first half of my career.”

When David moved to China where he lived in Shanghai for eight years, he witnessed firsthand the seemingly exponential growth of the auto market and the significant improvements it had on standards of living.

“Four hundred million people in China came out of poverty, and many of them because of the auto industry,” David said. “Mobility changed their opportunities and it hit me then of the scale and scope of impact GM has on the world.  Since then, I come to work every day looking to make a difference in the world through GM.”

One of David’s favorite parts of his job is being able to work with external organizations to listen and understand new perspectives. In 2012, he participated in Corporate Eco Forum’s sustainability leadership development program in the Amazon River basin with representatives from nine other companies to learn about the importance of the rainforest, innovations resulting from studying the rainforest, and its relationship to business.

These experiences have brought David to where he is now, focused on positioning GM to transform transportation through products, plants, people and partnerships, seizing new opportunities to grow the business and improve the lives of our customers.

“I like to think this is about driving business value from a customer perspective,” said David. “We call that customer-driven sustainability.”

The Chevrolet Spark EV is an example of the company’s commitment to customer-driven sustainability. Its peppy 400-lb-ft of torque (the same amount as the Chevy Camaro) makes it a fun car to drive that effectively has zero emissions, as well.

Waste minimization is another example of sustainability in action at GM. The company’s robust landfill-free efforts have transformed the way GM manufactures its vehicles. The company also helps other organizations better manage their waste.

“By looking at waste as a resource out of place we’ve created revenue streams from waste streams,” said David. “We’re driving new revenues that have a positive impact on our top line and we’re lowering costs that help our bottom line. This is good for our customers, too. Our 122 landfill-free facilities are proofpoints of sustainability in action.”

Some challenges David says GM and other public companies face is measuring the value of their social impact and the value consumers put on the sustainability performance of companies. This reinforces the importance of GM’s commitment to put the customer at the center of everything the company does.

David believes a truly successful sustainability future means companies don’t talk about sustainability anymore; it will simply be embedded in the way they do business every day because customers demand it

“Our industry is going to change more in the next 10 years than it has in the last 50 as a result of urbanization, congestion, population growth, and changing perceptions about the environment,” he said. “With what we’re doing in vehicle-to-vehicle communications and autonomous vehicles, electrification, and even bike sharing on our tech center campus, GM is playing a key role in that disruption. That’s exciting.”

CATEGORY: Environment