Chris McIntire, Sustainability Champion, Xylem
In 2012, Xylem created a new position – Sustainability Champion – and chose Chris McIntire, President of our Analytics business, to fill this vital role. Here, in a May 2012 interview, he defines what sustainability means for our company and our stakeholders.
Sustainability is defined in many ways. What is Xylem's definition?
Sustainability can be a hard idea to wrap your head around because it's so broad. So here are two ways we want to think about it at Xylem:
- First we have a global definition: Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
- Second, we have a business definition: Generating shareholder value by controlling risks and capitalizing on opportunities associated with environmental and socio-economic issues.
There are also ways we don't want to define it. It's not an exercise in compliance. It's not a "green" initiative designed to appeal to a select few. It's not an extra task or something we do in addition to our regular work. And it's not the latest and greatest idea that will fade away in the near future.
What does your appointment as Sustainability Champion say about Xylem's commitment to sustainability?
Xylem is a pure-play water technology company, and our simple vision of advancing the smarter use of water and looking to a future where global water issues do not exist means that sustainability needs to be integrated into everything we do.
One of CEO Gretchen McClain's goals for Xylem – advancing a sustainable environment – is a clear indication of her support. My appointment is another indication of top-level management support, but clearly our commitment doesn't end there.
Our effort in sustainability – similar to any significant efforts in a corporation – also requires bottom-up actions. Xylem's true commitment will be seen in the excellent work that will be done by the entire organization.
Can you point to some examples of how Xylem and its businesses have embraced a sustainability mindset?
The commitment to sustainability at Xylem is already great, but we are truly at the beginning of our sustainability journey.
We have already completed a gap analysis between our current programs and best practices in sustainability. Recently, we formed a Xylem Sustainability Steering Committee that is now reviewing these gaps and developing a five-year action plan based on specific gaps which have the highest priority for Xylem.
That plan will be our roadmap for becoming a leader in sustainability, and broad participation will drive our success. So we will create action teams – with employees from multiple value centers and functions – to target these specific areas across the company, and determine ways we can collaborate across businesses and geographies.
If Xylem can fully commit to sustainability, what does the future of the company look like?
There are no ifs about it. Fully committing to our sustainability journey is the only option. All of our stakeholders expect that level of commitment.
When we are fully committed, we will:
· Find ways to include our suppliers in our overall sustainability efforts.
· Advance our new product development process with the goal of increasing focus on sustainable solutions through innovation.
· Run all our facilities in the most sustainable ways possible.
· Raise public awareness of water issues, be an advocate for regulations and practices that drive water sustainability, and do more external, transparent reporting to tell the world our sustainability story.
There's no doubt in my mind that we will do it. I have been in the business of analyzing water for nearly 25 years and have been involved in program after program that had elements of sustainability. But Xylem's focus and commitment are different and deeper. We are making sustainability part of who and what we are as a company. It is a key part of Xylem's strategy and a critical component of our future success.