What does it take to be named among the 100 Best Corporate Citizens?

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DTE Energy has been stepping up and working hard to do our part to be a leading corporate citizen in Michigan and beyond. In fact, for the first time this year, DTE Energy made “Corporate Responsibility” magazine’s list of 100 Best Corporate Citizens.

The company recently released their 2016‑2017 Corporate Citizenship Report, which can be found at www.dtecitizenship.com. The report gets into the story of what the company is doing to become a world leader in energy generation and a transformational force for the state of Michigan.

I had the opportunity to speak with Nancy Moody, Vice President of Public Affairs, and Skiles Boyd, Vice President of Environmental Management and Resources for DTE Energy, to tell us a little bit more about how DTE made that list and the things that the company is doing to make the communities where we live and serve stronger.

Podcast Transcript:

David Lingholm:  [00:02] Welcome to another edition of the “Empowering Michigan” podcast. I’m your host, Dave Lingholm.

[00:04] DTE Energy has been stepping up and working hard to do our part to be a leading corporate citizen in Michigan and beyond. In fact, for the first time this year, DTE Energy made “Corporate Responsibility” magazine’s list of 100 Best Corporate Citizens.

[00:28] The company recently released their 2016‑2017 Corporate Citizenship Report, which can be found at www.dtecitizenship.com. The report gets into the story of what the company is doing to become a world leader in energy generation and a transformational force for the state of Michigan.

[00:52] Today, I’m joined by Nancy Moody, who is the Vice President of Public Affairs, and Skiles Boyd, the Vice President of Environmental Management and Resources for DTE Energy, to tell us a little bit more about how DTE made that list and the things that the company is doing to make the communities where we live and serve stronger.

[01:10] Thanks for joining me today, Nancy and Skiles. I really appreciate the opportunity. Talking about the Corporate Citizenship Report for DTE, why is being a good corporate citizen important for DTE? It sounds intuitive, but there’s got to be a reason why this is a focus.

Skiles Boyd:  [01:32] First of all, it’s the right thing to do, which is bottom line. In addition to that, it’s an expectation now, an expectation of our shareholders, an expectation of our customers, expectation of employees. If we want to hire good employees, their expectation is that we’re going to be a good corporate citizen.

[01:55] We’ve been a great company for 150 years. Going forward, if we aren’t a great corporate citizen and we don’t show that, we won’t last another 150 years.

David:  [02:07] One of the things that has been interesting about this is this is the first year DTE has been recognized as Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s list of 100 Best Corporate Citizens. What does that mean for DTE?

Nancy Moody:  [02:23] As Skiles said, we’ve been a great corporate citizen for the 150 years we’ve been in business, but more than ever, we really have a pronounced strategy around how we are a good corporate citizen, and that our employees are learning the culture’s really changing and the expectation for everybody’s level of working for a purpose is rising.

[02:50] The second half of our aspiration at DTE Energy is to be a force for growth and prosperity in the communities where we live and serve. We are now living and breathing that. I think the word is getting out.

Skiles:  [03:02] The other thing I would add to that is it’s much, much more organized now, the activities that we’ve had to be a good corporate citizen. The other thing that we’re doing is we’re telling our story a whole lot better. I expect that we’re going to continue to get even better at telling our story.

David:  [03:22] It is a lot of fun to watch the red DTE Care Force shirts when you’re out and about in the community, and seeing people do the good work. Part of the plan, too, is DTE’s announced a significant sustainability plan to reduce the company’s carbon footprint this year. Can you tell us a little bit more about that, Skiles?

Skiles:  [03:45] Sure. A big part of sustainability and being a good corporate citizen is the environmental part. For an energy company, that is carbon climate change. There are other issues that are involved, and we need to keep working those, but when you ask around and people in the general public, they look at what you’re doing on climate change.

[04:10] What we did was announce a significant effort by our company to contribute to addressing that issue, and that’s to basically move away from coal toward less emitting sources, primarily natural gas and renewables. We’ve got a more than 80 percent reduction by 2050, which is what scientists say that we need to be headed for if we’re really going to address this issue well.

[04:48] We’ve got multiple steps along the way of 30 percent reduction by the early 2020s, 45 percent by 2030, and 70 percent by 2040. We’ve got a plan now to do that. I think we’re being recognized that that’s a good plan, and it addresses our contribution to the issue.

David:  [05:12] To get to that plan, it takes good employees, and part of attracting good employees is to have good neighborhoods for them to live in.

[05:22] I know a big part of the work your team has been doing, Nancy, is to address some of that impact, and the impact that DTE can have in the communities where we all live and we all serve. What are some of the initiatives that have happened in the past year that really stand out to you?

Nancy:  [05:40] We have many, but I would say the most obvious is Beacon Park. We took an old industrial facility and gravel lot and turned it into this beautiful, vibrant, living, green space with wonderful facilities like a beautiful restaurant that will open in the spring.

[06:02] That is programmed all year long. We’ll have 600 activities there just this year. It’s bringing focus to the neighborhood of our own footprint here in western side of downtown that we’ve never had before.

[06:16] As you know, we named it Beacon Park very intentionally, because the beacon is a beacon of hope, and it’s a beacon of light for what may become of this neighborhood. We believe Beacon Park is the catalyst that’s going to draw a lot of development on this side of town.

David:  [06:34] There is a lot happening around the DTE campus in general, you being so close to the Little Caesar’s Arena. This part of downtown really is changing pretty quickly. Beacon Park’s a big part of that.

Nancy:  [06:47] And much more to come, much more to come. If you think of the way we’ve now opened up what we call Circle Park, the city is looking at bringing greenway all the way up from the river, right up Third Street to Beacon Park. We’re meeting with others who own some of these parking lots on the way over to the arena.

[07:08] We’re hoping to really create more living, breathing, walkable, great urban space between here and the entertainment district.

David:  [07:17] For urban planning, urban development nerds like me, that’s great news.

Nancy:  [07:22] It’s exciting, isn’t it?

David:  [07:23] It is exciting. Some of the other focus that DTE has had this year, though, is also efforts to start to strengthen the middle class. We know that that’s vitally important, especially for the workforce of the future. Can you tell me a little bit more about what some of those efforts are…?

Nancy:  [07:40] There are so many initiatives. I’ll start with the one that feeds right into neighborhood as well. We took the Randolph Career Technical Education Center, it was basically a school that was in shambles. It was down to 90 students and slated for closure.

[07:59] Working with the city and with other employers in town, working with the state of Michigan, DTE and Dave Mater, in particular, really led the effort to revitalize that school.

[08:12] We rebuilt the school. We build a new curriculum. We helped recruit teachers for the school, and we kicked off the fundraising with the first major gift that was an attraction for others to say, “OK, this is really happening.”

[08:27] Now, $10 million have been raised. Right now, there are 300 students in that school. Our goal over the next five years is to fill it to capacity, which is 700 students. There are also 700 students capable of coming in for adult classes in the evening, and that’s the goal. Those will become skilled trade workers of the future.

David:  [08:49] That was such an exciting press conference to be at in part because the project lead was somebody from DTE. He’s a project manager for the company anyway, but he was excited to be involved at this school that he went to, and to be able to give back like that.

[09:08] I think that’s a great example of what a lot of employees are doing. I was hoping that either one of you could give me a few more examples. That’s the one that stuck out in my head. What are some other examples of DTE employees, and what they’re doing in their communities to support our state?

Skiles:  [09:28] I’ll speak to the environmental side.

Skiles:  [09:31] Yeah. We’ve got a number of things going. One, internally, we’re upgrading our environmental management system to include all employees across the company. That’ll take care of the things that we have to do day to day on the environmental side. That’s our ISO‑1401 upgrade.

[09:56] Secondly, we have got a number of activities going on to reduce our use of water, our use of energy, and we’re involving the employees in that activity. Beyond that, we’ve got an ongoing volunteer program with our Green team that’s doing lots of activities and has been for a while, out in the community.

[10:28] Beyond that, the last part is we’re going to spend a lot of time talking with our employees and helping them in their homes, in their neighborhoods, to be good corporate environmental citizens ‑‑ energy use in their homes, water use in their homes. Those are the things that we’re putting forth on the environmental side to help our employees to do the things that they really want to do anyway.

Nancy:  [10:57] Let me add on to Skiles’ environmental piece. We have ‑‑ and you can probably tell how many ‑‑ wildlife habitats at our facilities all over the state of Michigan. Our Care Force volunteers are building many of those out. Whether you’re in Grand Rapids, Alpena, or the UP, we have wildlife habitats all over the state that are really exciting, and they’re beautiful projects.

Skiles:  [11:22] We’re going that, and then we’re also working with the environmental community on pollinator, to help bring back the bees, butterflies, and the things that pollinate all of our crops and our flowers, in general.

David:  [11:40] Yeah, and the flowers.

Nancy:  [11:42] This is how we blend being that great corporate citizen with doing the work that we do, and how it just becomes part of who we are.

David:  [11:48] I think that’s one of the exciting things about the Corporate Citizenship Report is that chance for us as a company to reflect on where we’ve been, but to see, for employees and for the community to see where we’re going with it. There’s quite a few interesting initiatives in there.

[12:09] [background music]

David:  [12:07] I appreciate your time, both of you, Nancy and Skiles. I appreciate the opportunity to catch up.

Skiles:  [12:14] It’s a pleasure. Thanks.

Nancy:  [12:15] Thanks a lot, David.