Women in CSR: Tanya Bolden, Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG)
Welcome to our series of interviews with leading female CSR practitioners where we are learning about what inspires these women and how they found their way to careers in sustainability. Read the rest of the series here.
TriplePundit: Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the business.
Tanya Bolden: I am the Program Development Manager, Corporate Responsibility for the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG). I lead AIAG’s program on corporate responsibility (CR) and facilitate our work with teams of volunteers drawn from AIAG member companies, including Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, and Nissan, 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.
3p: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?
TB: I’m proud to say that we’ve gone from several individual initiatives to a more coordinated, strategic approach to CR. When I came to AIAG, we had working conditions training, GHG estimating and reporting, and health and safety. Since then, I’ve built on those and introduced a new structure for CR, and really developed our social and environmental programs. We also established a Steering Committee, comprised of member company volunteers, which helps identify emerging issues and develop forward-looking approaches to them. As a few examples, 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.
3p: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey, and how.
TB: 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 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 build 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.
3p: What is the best advice you have ever received?
TB: 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.
3p: Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?
TB: 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.
I’m also pleased with how our annual Corporate Responsibility Summit has evolved in a short time. In three years, the agenda and discussions we’re prompting have become increasingly sophisticated, and we’ve doubled the number of attendees we’re attracting, more of whom are coming from around the world.
3p: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?
TB: I wish we could reach more small and medium-sized suppliers, who could benefit from the resources we have to offer. It’s the small businesses who 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 connections, and that’s where the anticipated risk, and therefore opportunity, can be found.
3p: Describe your perfect day.
TB: 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.