Interview: Bill Hall, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
This summer, SPLC is running a Thought Leadership Interview Series in order to recognize and learn from some of the individuals involved in our work.
Today we’re pleased to share our interview with Bill Hall; Head of Sustainability for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. In this role, Hall is responsible for developing and implementing FCA’s corporate sustainability vision and direction, encompassing the three aspects of economic success, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility.
We hope you enjoy reading about his story and work on sustainable purchasing.
How did your passion for sustainable purchasing develop?
- I’ve been with FCA (formerly Chrysler) for over 30 years, much of it in various elements of supply chain management. In 2009, as we were rebuilding from our bankruptcy, and forging our relationship with Fiat, I became interested in sustainability, initially with a focus on alternative and renewable energy. I read articles, books, and attended seminars, and realized my multi-faceted experience (manufacturing, product development, purchasing, supply chain, sales & marketing) was a good foundation for helping with the sustainability transformation. I then began working with my management and Human Resources partners to seek a role within our sustainability organization. Fortunately, that happened in December of 2012, when I became Director of Sustainability and Business Continuity.
How did your organization make sustainability in procurement a priority?
- Chrysler began its sustainability journey in 2008, when two very energetic purchasing professionals (“intrapreneurs”) began advocating it. They secured the support of their VP, who then went to the CEO. The CEO had previously championed corporate sustainability with Fiat, so he immediately approved. All organizations, including purchasing, were asked to appoint a “sustainability champion” to learn about the concept, principles, and actions required, and to help perpetuate it among their peers in the operating groups. Chrysler published its first sustainability report in 2011. A few months later, Fiat (not yet FCA) joined forces with Chrysler to publish a joint report for 2012.
Achievements and Challenges
Thinking about your work related to sustainable purchasing, what is something you’re personally proud of having accomplished?
- We championed the creation of an online Supplier Sustainability Self-Assessment tool for suppliers to learn about sustainable business practices and then assess their current state. This tool has now been embraced as the automotive industry standard, free to any company who wants to use it, and provided by our trade association, the Auto Industry Action Group (AIAG). Another accomplishment is a special study we did to map our supply chain (from finished component to extractives) and use the SSSA for all the identified suppliers. It was a focused study, beginning with only two Tier 1 suppliers and three components, but ultimately identified over 150 suppliers across Tiers 2-5. There were very interesting insights that have led us to take further actions that emphasize supply chain transparency and multi-tiered sustainability.
What is a significant challenge that your organization has faced, related to sustainable purchasing?
- Generally the challenge in purchasing is to align sustainability goals alongside cost, quality, delivery, and technology goals, which are more tangible and often with very aggressive continuous improvement targets. Buyers and the purchasing management are very supportive of sustainability, but when making purchasing decisions, we lack the tools to truly embrace ESG with each PO they issue. An example of a tool that some buyers have asked for (that we don’t have today) is a “full-carbon” assessment for logistics. Currently, our systems calculate the landed cost, which ensures we capture the total cost including shipping. But, perhaps their decisions would be different if they understood the total GHG impact and used an internal carbon price to enable quantifiable comparisons.
Making the Business Case
How have you communicated the business case for sustainable purchasing within your organization?
- We often describe it as three tiers of value: The most basic is “minimizing the downside,” i.e. compliance, regulatory requirements, and avoiding negative externalities; the second is efficiency, for instance driven by energy savings, waste reduction, and employee retention; the top tier is growth — in market share, revenue, profitability, and new products — all of which come when a company successfully finds a unique way to solve a societal need.
How do you motivate staff/ buyers within your organization to prioritize sustainability when procuring goods/services?
- Through varied facets of engagement, from special projects, to presentations in town halls and department meetings, to membership on cross-functional committees, to working with their suppliers, many of whom themselves are leaders in sustainable business practices (and consequently are the “teachers and mentors” for our buyers!). We also give an annual “sustainability supplier of the year” award, as part of Purchasing’s supplier awards program; so the buyers are reminded of the importance and value proposition of sustainability through that mechanism as well.
The Big Picture
What are some emerging trends in sustainable purchasing and how might these affect the future of the sustainable purchasing movement?
- Multi-tiered transparency is a big opportunity – after the Japan tsunami and nuclear disaster, and then the Thailand floods (not to mention Rana Plaza), industry woke up to the fact they do not often know who their suppliers are embedded deep (Tiers 2-n) within their supply chain. Also, human rights (3TG, cobalt, mica, garment, human trafficking/anti-slavery) have been a growing issue. Fortunately, 3rd party solutions for mapping and assessing (Resilinc, NQC, EcoVadis, Labor Voices, among many others) are emerging as catalysts to drive change.
What do you value about the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council?
- It’s a great cohort of “market makers,” possessing an excellent combination of purchasing acumen, operational pragmatism and sustainability vision.
What aspirations do you have for the sustainable purchasing movement and the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council?
- Growth in membership and their reach across sectors. Ultimately, the end results matter most: supply chains that are resilient, efficient, carbon neutral (or better!), safe for employees and communities, and therefore drivers of economic and societal value creation.
Is there anything we didn’t ask that you’d like to share about?
- People often ask me, “How do I get a job in sustainability,” to which I reply, “You can work on sustainability regardless of the title on your business card, because it’s about transforming how business — the entire business – operates.” SPLC does a nice job of reinforcing this sentiment.
In the spirit of getting to know each other better, can you share one interesting thing about yourself that others in the SPLC community may not know?
- One fun quip that I like to share with young professionals: I’ve spent over half of my career in supply chain and sustainability, but when I was in college, those jobs had not even been invented yet. Think about the future professional landscape 20 years from now (and new jobs yet to be defined)… it’s a lifetime learning opportunity, so embrace it!
- Two other tidbits, I’m an identical twin and I’ve run five marathons.
A huge thank you to Bill for his insight.
Follow this link to view all of the Thought Leadership Interview Series blog posts published so far.
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