AIAG: Why We Do What We Do

Volunteering for your industry is one of the most important—and most needed—acts a professional will ever do. Here’s a kick-off on a new AIAG e-news interview series that takes a look at what motivates and sustains the need to give back.
Dec 19, 2013 12:00 PM ET

By Tanya Bolden

As 2013 draws to a close, and we reflect on the past year as well as the one ahead, it’s a good time to thank some of the people who are so essential to the work we do at AIAG: our volunteers.

AIAG sends a resounding “Thank you!” to the many individuals whose personal and professional commitments of time, energy, resources, experience, and brain power have made a significant impact on AIAG’s accomplishments over the last 12 months.

With the incredible work accomplished at AIAG through its volunteers, the approach to solving our industry’s biggest challenges is more streamlined and efficient. To those who have volunteered, as well as those of you who may be considering it, we say this: Volunteering for your industry is one of the most important—and most needed—acts a professional will ever do.

These inspiring commitments from our volunteers make us wonder: Why do they do what they do? I recently had a chance to ponder the same question when I was interviewed by Triple Pundit. The insights I gained from the experience, and the positive feedback I received from many of you who read the piece, convinced me that we would all benefit from hearing from our volunteers about their individual stories and motivations.

To kick it off, I’m sharing below a condensed version of my interview, which includes the questions we’ll be asking our volunteers starting in 2014:

Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the automotive business.

I lead AIAG’s program on corporate responsibility (CR) and facilitate our work with teams of volunteers drawn from our member companies and their supply chain partners. We collaborate to develop and implement solutions to the array of challenges our industry faces, from improving global working conditions and environmental sustainability, to increasing transparency and respect for human rights in the supply chain. 

I’ve been at AIAG for three years, and before that I was with GM for 20 years in a variety positions, most recently as corporate responsibility manager.

How has corporate responsibility evolved at AIAG, and what role have you played?

I’m proud to say that we’ve gone from several individual initiatives to a more coordinated, strategic approach to CR at AIAG. We established a Steering Committee, comprised of member company volunteers, which helps identify emerging issues and develop forward-looking approaches to them. We’ve created an environmental sustainability advisory group, launched chemical management awareness training, and we’ll soon offer training on the Globally Harmonized System, a UN initiative to standardize chemical safety information and thus reduce confusion.

Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey, and how.

When I was with the Chevrolet division at GM, we learned that one of the victims of the Columbine high school shooting tragedy was a Chevy fan and loved his old 1985 Chevy truck. His family said one of his favorite pastimes was off-road driving with his friends and building homes for the less fortunate in Mexico with their church.  So as a tribute to him, we sponsored a Habitat home built in his name, and we restored the truck for his family as a keepsake.

We were excited when the day finally came to award the new home to a deserving family. But there was this gentleman, a volunteer contractor who had helped on the house, who was upset about recent repairs needed to his own Chevy work truck. He kept trying, unsuccessfully, to get to our general manager to air his complaints. But after the event, when he had seen the impact we had on the families and the community, he really changed his mind about our company. He said, “When I came here, I was going to give you a piece of my mind, but when I saw what you did today, it convinced me that you’re not a cold, heartless company.”

That was a moment that showed me what corporate responsibility looks like in practice. On a lot of levels, it was the right thing to do, and that experience really shaped my journey in this field.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

My parents always told me, “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” And, “try to leave things better than you found them.” Their words have inspired me to do my best in every situation.

Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?

I’m proud of the way we’ve helped the automotive industry take a proactive, coordinated approach to the looming challenge of looking for, and reporting on, conflict minerals in the supply chain. We have a very engaged working group with a diverse collection of leading automakers, suppliers, and professional services firms. Working together, we developed an industry-endorsed reporting tool and recently published two case studies that offer guidance to not only automotive companies, but others in manufacturing and technology. I think all of these activities are why multinational organizations such as the OECD consider us the leading automotive voice on conflict minerals due diligence processes.

If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?

I wish we could reach more small and medium-sized suppliers that could benefit from the resources we have to offer. It’s the small businesses that could benefit from the things we’re doing; the challenge is trying to reach them directly. As you go down the supply chain, you have less visibility and fewer connections, and that’s where the anticipated risk, and therefore opportunity, can be found.

Describe your perfect day.

My day is perfect when I can meet the demands of work on time, or ahead of schedule, and then get home to make dinner and spend the evening with my husband and two lovely twin girls.

More Stories to Come

In the future, we’ll hear what our most passionate volunteers have to say about the questions above, so we can learn what makes them do what they do. Stay tuned!

Tanya Bolden is program development manager, corporate responsibility at AIAG. For additional information, click here.