A Nuclear Engineer enters the World of Sustainable Development

Guest post by Tricia Bolian, Business Development Manager, AREVA I&C and Electrical

Recently I had the opportunity to step out of my normal role at AREVA and join Laura Clise, AREVA’s Director of Sustainable Development for North America, at the 2012 Net Impact Conference in Baltimore. Here, over 2,700 sustainability leaders and students met to discuss the integration of sustainability into core business areas. The program included inspiring keynote presentations from leaders at Honest Tea, Teach for America, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson and UPS. Forum topics included the future of low-carbon energy, like nuclear power, and the impact of natural gas prices on the power industry, facilitated by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

As part of my regular day job at AREVA, I frequently represent our company and its products at technical conferences and industry working group meetings. My discussions typically center on nuclear regulatory requirements and licensing, engineering processes, and product innovations. The Net Impact meeting was eye-opening for me, introducing me to a world focused on using clean energy and ways to impact (read “improve”) the environment and address social problems as we go about the business of doing business.

I was aware of AREVA’s commitment to clean energy and stakeholder engagement, but I must confess that I viewed these topics somewhat as side issues, things we should do to improve the environment and be able to operate for future years, and others which we must do to be “a good corporate citizen.” As an engineer with a little too much knowledge about what really happens to lots of newspapers taken to recycling centers, I had become somewhat jaded about the real difference that could be made. Spending two days surrounded by energetic business leaders who were actually finding ways to improve profitability by doing the right thing made me want to start my own small green business on the side.

A key insight: When corporate sustainability is a primary goal, it drives innovation rather than riding alongside.

This conference also showed me that students emerging from colleges today expect careers that are not only technically challenging, but also socially rewarding. The same vision we had at the beginning of our careers several decades ago—that we could change the world—is alive and well, but is focused on social issues along with producing better widgets. In addition, our customers have begun to include sustainability questions into their Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and we must be prepared to respond and support their sustainability efforts.

I appreciated the opportunity to learn, to network and to represent AREVA and our commitment to promote and deliver sustainability throughout the electric utility value chain.