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Corporate Sustainability and Stewardship: What Are Business Leaders Doing to Protect Michigan’s Future?

“Diversity is being invited to the party, and inclusion is being asked to dance.” Jim Fitterling, CEO of Dow said, to which Alicia Boler Davis, vice president of global customer fulfillment for Amazon added “Belonging is when they play your song.”

At the 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference, Boler Davis and Fitterling joined the Love Michigan: Corporate Sustainability and Stewardship panel with Christina L. Keller, president and CEO of Cascade Engineering Family of Companies and Patti Poppe, president and CEO of Consumers Energy and CMS Energy. The panel discussed how Michigan businesses can be a force for good.

When asked about their definitions of sustainability, each panelist agreed that it is not an initiative or a project, it is integrated into how a company operates. Some key issues the panel discussed that are critical to sustainability and stewardship include the environment, talent attraction, and diversity and inclusion.

Boler Davis and Fitterling touched on what their respective organizations are doing to address environmental issues.

“Amazon is tackling environmental issues by providing the data,” said Boler Davis. “A new sustainability data initiative is helping people get access to Amazon’s data to solve some of the world’s most compelling environmental problems.”

Fitterling discussed Dow’s efforts to create a circular economy where plastics are used and then reused, multi-purpose. “I wonder, how can we use recycled plastics for the governor’s ‘Fixing the Roads’ project? [Dow] is currently looking into how to use recycled plastics to solve other issues in the state.”

Keller touched on how Cascade is tapping into underutilized portions of the population to fill manufacturing jobs.

“10% of adults in Michigan have a felony on their record, which really reduces future job opportunities,” said Keller, “9,000 individuals are coming out of incarceration every year in Michigan. Tapping into this population not only helps them, but also fills some of the talent gap.”

Regarding diversity and inclusion, all speakers agreed that leaders must be held accountable for creating inclusive environment and not leave responsibility to the employees.

Key Takeaways:

  • Diversity is a start, but businesses must create an inclusive culture in order to keep diverse talent.
  • Sustainability must be about taking a long view and thinking, “What are the good long-term decisions?”
  • Key legislation each of the panelists emphasized:
    • Alicia Boler Davis and Amazon are working with other companies to work on packaging that can be reused or recycled, or items that do not require packaging, and wants to see more legislation that supports these efforts.
    • Christina L. Keller wants to see more legislation on education initiatives that expose students to STEM careers. She also wants B-Corp certification to become a state designation.
    • Jim Fitterling wants to see more robust recycling infrastructure that supports chemical and mechanical recycling.