Q&A: PG&E Chief Sustainability Officer Melissa Lavinson

Make your business merry, bright and safe!

Melissa Lavinson wrote her college thesis on sustainability.

She worked on the first U.S. submission to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and with the U.S Environmental Protection Agency on its early climate change work.

She’s seen industry transformation first-hand — from California’s energy market deregulation in the 1990s to the changes taking place today thanks to technological advances.

She also helped create PG&E’s sustainability program 10 years ago. Now, after nearly 20 years with the company, she’s PG&E’s Chief Sustainability Officer.

Q: Can you explain the concept of “sustainability”?

A: The classic definition is meeting the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. At PG&E, it means more to us. It’s about meeting the needs of today in a way that creates a better tomorrow.

Every day we make decisions that impact our communities, customers, shareholders and the planet. Sustainability is about thinking long-term and striking the right balance in those decisions to achieve our goals of providing safe, reliable, affordable and clean energy.

Q: When people think of sustainability, they often think of climate change. What is PG&E doing in that area?

A: As a company, we’ve done a lot at the state, national and local level to put in place policies that will allow us to effectively meet our climate reduction goals. We’ve taken concrete steps to reduce our own carbon footprint and help our customers do the same. And most recently, we joined California’s delegation this past December at the COP21 climate talks in Paris to support an agreement to slow global warming.

Q: How do we look at climate change in terms of our customers and communities?

A: We recognize that climate change is happening; we’re beginning to see its effects today. Whether it’s more extreme drought, wildfires, storms — all of these impact our business, customers and communities. So we need to make sure we’re building a resilient system and we’re helping our customers prepare and adapt.

We’re very focused on understanding the impacts of climate change on our business. For example, we created a grant program so communities can understand how to best address it locally. It’s part of our responsibility to ensure our communities thrive in the future ― because if they thrive, we thrive.

Q:What can you tell me about PG&E’s Sustainability Advisory Council?

A: As we look ahead, we recognize we don’t have all of the answers. So we’ve brought together a group of national experts with energy, environmental and community backgrounds to guide us on our sustainability journey. These are people who are making the future of energy in different ways. They provide us with a dynamic view of the future and will help us align our sustainability and strategy efforts with where we need to go.

Q:OK, final question: Why is sustainability so important?

A: Our employees live and work in the communities we serve, so how we go about doing our business is just as important as the business we do. Our customers want to know that we’re doing our part to ensure that our great state continues to be great well into the future and that we’re leaving a positive legacy for the next generation. That’s what sustainability is about. I can’t think of anything more important or more inspiring.

To learn more, visit PG&E’s Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report.