The New ‘3Ps’ of Sustainability: Pragmatism, Perseverance and Passion

By Rob Threlkeld, GM Global Manager of Renewable Energy
Sep 19, 2017 12:15 PM ET
Turbines on a wind farm owned by Starwood Energy in Texas.

The New ‘3Ps’ of Sustainability: Pragmatism, Perseverance and Passion

In sustainability, we often talk about the “three Ps” of the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit. At GM, we use it as a framework to evaluate our performance as a company and leverage it to develop solutions to a variety of societal and environmental challenges.

As corporate citizens, it is our responsibility to protect our customers and the communities where they live. We also strengthen our business by operating this way. In the case of renewable energy, we save $5 million annually while delivering cleaner air to communities.

It takes time to gain traction for these initiatives and embed a sustainability culture into company DNA. It can require a “three P” method of its own: a pragmatic approach fulfilled through perseverance and supported by passion for sustainable solutions.  

This approach helped us execute our latest renewable energy deal – procuring 200 megawatts of wind energy to power all seven of our Ohio and Indiana manufacturing operations.

1. Pragmatic. We start by looking at the basics. How much electricity do we need, who do we need to work with to get us there, and which facilities, employees and communities can these deals support? As we build on GM’s renewable energy portfolio, this practical approach enables us to gain further support from departments outside of the sustainability space, including finance and treasury, legal, policy, facilities and our local utility partners. We didn’t always have the ear of all these corporate functions; it is a matter of consistently demonstrating the sound business approach – one that locks GM into stable energy prices and reduces risk through a diverse energy portfolio.

2. Perseverance. It takes perseverance to bring together teams within the company that may not traditionally work together. We state the case for green power to each, running – and proving – the numbers. This leads to broken-down silos across the company and an acceleration of our use of renewable energy sources. For example, we made our first Mexico wind deal in February of 2015, followed by one in the U.S. 10 months later. Another 10 months after that, we executed our then-largest deal in November of 2016. The new 200-megawatt contract this summer doubles our 199.8 megawatt capacity. Although we’ve used renewable energy like landfill gas and solar for decades, these wind power purchase agreements make a good dent in our goal to power all of our operations’ electricity by 2050.

3. Passion. Progress would not be possible without the dedication of a team that values sustainability and the benefits it brings to our customers, business and communities.  Our people are on a mission to develop sustainable solutions that move humanity forward.

For more information on GM’s environmental commitment, visit our sustainability report.