A Conversation with...Tanya Bolden, Automotive Industry Action Group

Bolden, the director of corporate responsibility products and services for AIAG, will speak at NASF Sur/Fin in June.
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Tanya Bolden is director of corporate responsibility products and services for the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG), a nonprofit association where professionals from a diverse group of stakeholders work to streamline industry processes and harmonize business practices. She will speak at NASF Sur/Fin on Monday, June 6, on “Emerging Corporate Sustainability Trends for Automotive OEMs and the Supply Chain.”



Tanya Bolden, Automotive Industry Action Group

Q: Tell us what you do at AIAG and your background.

TB: 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 six years, and before that I was with GM for 20 years in a variety of positions, most recently as corporate responsibility manager.


Q: How has your company's sustainability program grown?

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.


Q: Tell us about someone 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 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 many levels, it was the right thing, and that experience really shaped my journey in this field.


Q: What is a recent accomplishment you are 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 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 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.


Q: 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. 


Written by Andrea Newell and originally posted on TriplePundit.com. Follow Andrea on Twitter @anewell3p.


Originally published in the May 2016 issue.