This Fresh Take interview featured Calvin Butler, CEO, Exelon Utilities. JB and Calvin discussed Exelon’s investment in workforce development initiatives in the region, the importance of supplier diversity in supporting minority-owned small businesses, and his own role as a community and business leader in Baltimore.
Hosted by JB Holston. Produced by Jenna Klym, Justin Matheson-Turner, Christian Rodriguez, and Nina Sharma. Edited by Christian Rodriguez.
Learn from leaders doing the work across the Capital Region and beyond. These conversations will showcase innovation, as well as history and culture across our region, to bridge the gap between how we got here and where we are going.
About our guest:
Calvin G. Butler Jr. is a senior executive vice president and chief operating officer at Exelon. Butler oversees Exelon’s six local electric and natural gas companies -- Atlantic City Electric, BGE, ComEd, Delmarva Power, PECO and Pepco. Together, they form the nation’s largest utility company by customer count, serving approximately 10 million electric and gas customers in New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois, Delaware, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia, respectively. Butler serves as vice chairman of each utility’s board and is a member of Exelon’s executive committee. In addition to serving as CEO of Exelon Utilities, Butler serves as the interim CEO of ComEd, overseeing management of the electric grid serving more than 4 million customers in Chicago and most of northern Illinois.
Butler previously served as CEO of BGE from 2014 to 2019. Prior to that role, Butler was BGE’s senior vice president, regulatory and external affairs. Butler also served as Exelon’s senior vice president of corporate affairs, Chief Human Resources Officer, and held other leadership positions at Exelon and ComEd (Chicago).
Butler serves on the boards of several prominent Baltimore-based organizations including the Baltimore Community Foundation, University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Board of Visitors, Greater Baltimore Committee, Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, the Center Club and Caves Valley Golf Club. He is immediate past chair of his alma mater, Bradley University. In addition, Butler serves on the boards of M&T Bank Corporation and M&T Bank, its principal banking subsidiary; the Institute of International Education, a not-for-profit organization focused on advancing scholarship, promoting access to education, and building economies; and the Library of Congress’ James Madison Council.
He has been recognized by several organizations for his leadership and community commitment. In 2021, The Daily Record named Butler to their “Power 100” list and has singled him out as one of its top 35 Influential Marylanders, as well as listed him three times as one of Maryland’s “Most Admired CEOs.” In 2020, he was honored with the BEYA Chairman’s Award, recognizing Black leaders for their meaningful contributions to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). That same year, he was named among Black Enterprise Magazine’s “Most Influential Black Executives in Corporate America,” and as Zpryme’s “ETS Thought Leader of the Year,” honoring those with the “inventive and brave vision needed to inspire the global energy ecosystem toward sustainable modernization.” In 2019, the Boy Scouts of America honored him with the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Service Award and he has been named by Baltimore Magazine as one of its “Top Ten Baltimoreans.”
Butler earned a bachelor’s degree from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., and a Juris Doctor degree from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, Mo. He received an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from Morgan State University in 2014.
Nina Sharma 0:04
Welcome to fresh take a candid interview series featuring thought leaders and innovators from across the capital region. These one on one conversations, highlight the incredible work happening in our communities and showcase both where we are and where we are going as a region.
JB Holston 0:25
Welcome, everyone, welcome, Calvin to to the program. It's great to have you here today.
Calvin Butler 0:30
Thank you, JB, good to be with you.
JB Holston 0:32
Thank you. This is our fresh take series where we talk to great leaders in the region and nationally about some of the most pertinent topics of the day. And today, I'm absolutely delighted to be joined by Calvin Butler. I'll give just a brief bio Calvin about you for the audience. And then I am going to ask you to expand a little bit on that. But for folks who don't know Calvin is Senior Executive Vice President of Exelon and Chief Executive Officer of Exelon utilities. He oversees Exelon six local electric and natural gas companies, which together form the nation's largest utility company by customer counts, serving approximately 10 million electric and gas customers across the region, including in our immediate area, Maryland and of course, the District of Columbia. Kevin also serves on the boards of m&t Bank Corp, and m&t Bank, he's the immediate past board chair of the grid wise Alliance, which is one of the one of the topics I look forward to talking with with him about as we talk about sustainability. He is most notably, of course, involved with our inclusive growth strategy, Council. But and for that, of course, we wanted to thank you, Calvin, for for your and your organization's commitments to this work, which we'll also talk about, as well. account has been recognized by several organizations for his leadership and community commitment in 2020. He was named among Black Enterprise Magazine's Most Influential black executives and in corporate America. Delighted to have you here, Calvin. And again, thank you so much for the time.
Calvin Butler 2:01
Again, it's truly my pleasure. And I'm looking forward to our conversation.
JB Holston 2:06
Great. Well, let's start a little bit about your journey, if you wouldn't mind. And then we can talk a little bit about Exelon but love to hear, you know, what brought you to this work, can this organization and, and we go from there.
Calvin Butler 2:20
I think this is always the hardest part of any conversation I have, you know, because I find my journey. And that is interesting, and some others may right. So, but I'll tell you, I'm a I'm a lawyer by training. I specialized I'm born and raised in St. Louis. So I went back to law school at Washington University in St. Louis, where I really focused on corporate and environmental law. And in the early 90s, that's when the environmental law was really taking off. And right around the clean water act super fun. So I got into it. And I was very fortunate JP to be able to go straight in house counsel. And believe it or not, it was for utility holding company, who had just bought an environmental consulting company. So I cut my teeth in house doing things around the environment, super fun work in the light, and then I became their chief lobbyist. So Lawyer by lawyer by training lobbyist by trade for a number of years, and moved to Chicago to work for RR Donnelley in cut my chaps doing government affairs across the country within ran operations for a while I joined Exelon in 2008. And fast forward Exelon in being in all things not operations, then running, doing HR for a while then I did m&a which brought me to the East Coast. And so in 2011, I came here to do the merger between Exelon and constellation. And 11 months later, so we got the deal done. And in 2013, I moved the family here from Chicago. And in 2014, I became CEO of Baltimore Gas and Electric the nation's first gas utility. And in 2019, December assumed the role of CEO of Exelon utilities. And along the way, JB I can tell you, where I've been very fortunate and blessed is that I've had the opportunity to work for a company and companies prior that had a commitment to all the things that I stand for diversity, equity and inclusion, performance, leadership, the environment. So I've been able to lean in and do the things that are in support of my values, and really represent the company and do that sincerely in getting things done. So it's been a nice journey, met some great people and continue to build great teams and just get things done.
JB Holston 4:44
Well, that's great. Thanks for that. Thanks for sharing that. And I know oftentimes this is the painful part of the conversation but but I also know people really appreciate that that context. Let's talk just a little bit about about Exelon. I mentioned some of the some of the statistics about it. But I know Of course, Exelon is going through some prospective corporate changes as well that people may have heard about. Could you talk a little bit about Exelon and maybe in particular about what some of those changes are that are underway?
Calvin Butler 5:13
Absolutely. So when you when you think about Exelon, I've always tried to simplify it is that who we are, first off, we're the world's premier nuclear operator. And we generate 12% of the of the country's cleanest fuel, I mean, nuclear operations, this is what we do. And we run our nuclear plants world class. And we're also, as you mentioned, the largest operator of urban utility. So I say we run nuclear Well, we run large urban utilities well, and we are a leader in our industry in terms of climate change, and sustainability. And we lead with that, and we really lean into our corporate philanthropy. We're committed to making us into social impact making a difference in the communities that we serve. And that won't change. When we separate, we're going to be two world class organizations. And what we're doing is we're splitting off our non regulated business. Exelon being the generation portfolio of the nuclear portfolio, just speaking with, as well as our retail sales organization constellation, the non regulated side of our business will be called constellation. And the utilities remain retain the name of Exelon because we know there's brand awareness in both of those names. And so excited, excited for that. Our our plan, and we're continuing to get the regulatory approvals is to have this done by the first quarter of 2022. And over the next couple of days or so months, leadership of both organizations will be named in transition will continue to book but we're excited about that, because they're going to be two world class organizations, and just be to two organizations now leaning into the communities and making a difference.
JB Holston 7:03
Well, that's terrific. Thank you for for that. Calvin. I know. I know, it's been a bit of a journey. But I also think it's really helpful for people to understand where you are on that on that journey. And, you know, for what it's worth, my personal view is I think the markets will, you know, appreciate that unbundling, if you will, in ways it'll add some significant value as well.
Calvin Butler 7:22
So JB the feedback has been wonderful. And, you know, my focus each and every day is ensuring that the six utilities that we run, continue to operate efficiently and reliable and lean into the communities one and two, making sure that our people, the 16,000 people within the Exelon utility, Umbro are cared for and understand what's going on. Because as you can imagine, an any times like this, you know, first off, we're still in the midst of a pandemic. So we're remote from one another. And then you talk about doing a split, then you talk about legislative issues that are impacting the business anxiety can be hard. Yeah. And as I tell my leadership team all the time, is that this is when leaders show up. This is when you step up, and if you need to get a small group of people together in an office somewhere socially distance Macedon to spend FaceTime do that. Don't Don't take the easy way and do this be on video, because people that anxiety is at a high point right now. And it's your job, my job to give them some assurance that we're going to be okay as we manage through this. And I'm so proud of the leadership team for doing exactly that. Because think about it. It's been a what is it? 20 months that we've been doing this, and we haven't missed a beat operationally. So the team is solid, but 50% of our workforce has been showing up want to work in the field each and every day, during storms. We just have 500 employees in Louisiana. So we haven't stopped. But I recognize the anxiety is high.
JB Holston 8:54
Yeah, I appreciate that. And thank you for elaborating on that. That is a topic that comes up with a lot of the CEOs involved with the partnership. Interestingly, one of our military contracting companies, which has largely been on site for the entire time of the pandemic, that CEO observed to me about a week ago that she feels the anxiety level for her employees is higher now than ever. Which which is which is I think speaks to your point. It's it's a bit of a cumulative effect, I think for for all of us. And thanks again for sharing that information about that. Excellent. There were three topics that I'd love to dive into. One is sustainability. The other as we mentioned, is Equity Diversity and Inclusion. And then the third of course, that relates to the other two is community and community engagement. Why don't we start on the sustainability front? You have mentioned that that the the Exelon has been at the forefront for quite some time. It does seem from the outside that sustainability is becoming as foundational to more organizations as as a value You more than more than ever, but talk with us a little bit about what you folks have been doing and and if you wouldn't mind sharing, where's the industry going on sustainability? What are the what are the big opportunities ahead around sustainability for the industry?
Calvin Butler 10:19
Great up. So I always like to say with endless and investors really focusing on ESG, environmental, social and governance, and really pushing and pressing organizations to lay out what they're doing around those three pillars. I always say, you know, Exelon was doing ESG. Before it was sexy. You know, we were, we were on the leading edge. You we divested in the coal plants and other things, because, you know, we could, it meant we were the largest nuclear operator. And we understood that we had a footprint and an opportunity to lay the foundation to lay the groundwork to make a difference. We started setting sustainability goals since 20, I want to say 2012. And we and we kept meeting him and achieving them. So as this continued to evolve, for us, it became less stayed on goals. But we were always going to say hold us accountable, we will always lay out the metrics. And at any point, you can ask the question, and we can show you the metrics on what we're doing, we have never been an organization to just stay at sticks, lay out a goal, and say, we'll see what happens. So this has been very conscious of effort for us to sit back and lay out an attainable goal that we can lean in and work with our partners. So from a utility standpoint, our efforts, what you can expect is our commitment is to really build a smarter, cleaner, more reliable, more resilient, and more secure grid, the grid is going to have to operate differently tomorrow than it does today, it's going to have to be bi directional, because of the distributed energy resources that our customers are putting on the system, we have to be able to manage that. But just think of what we were just talking about with the pandemic, people working from home. Kids being educated from home, we have to make sure our system is more reliable because our customers you are less tolerant of blips in the system. And so the communication and engagement with our customers is at an all time high, while also working to reduce air pollution. You think about the cities that we operate in some of the largest urban areas of the United States, DC Baltimore, Chicago, Wilmington, Delaware, Atlantic City and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Those are large urban centers, with also large rural footprints. And what we recognize in those urban centers, the black and brown people are disproportionately affected by pollution than anyone else. So our opportunity to be a leader in this is very important to us. And I would I would suggest you that our industry is leaning in. There's a statistic out there and I won't give you the number because I'm but a high percentage of you. investor owned utilities across the company country has stated a goal to achieve net zero carbon emissions. We have also set a goal we call it our path to clean our path to clean effort says that we're going to be zero emissions by 2050. We will achieve 50% by 2030. And what I can tell you JP is that I have a line of sight to achieve that first 80% That last 20% is all about technology. We are committed to getting there we've put millions of dollars in partnerships and investments with every the gas Technology Institute, with MIT with Abbott Labs to develop technology. In addition to that we've invested in small startup companies in our jurisdictions on climate technology already, we call it our to see to AI initiative where we put we started in 2019 when we invested $20 million to seed startup companies to get to develop these technologies. Another big piece, and then I'll stop here is around transportation electrification, because everyone is looking at Okay, excellent. I hear you on that zero, greenhouse gas emissions. But what are you doing with your own fleet? Because we know transportation is one of the biggest contributors to GHG emissions. We said that we were one of the first utility companies in the country to say we're going to reduce our change out our fleet by 50% to all electric. We're going to do that by 2030. So we took that step, others follow suit, and I think that's just as important being a leader in this discussion. And by state setting up these goals, what it allows us to do is to sit back with our jurisdictions and be part of the solution sit at the table. like we did in DC with the climate action plan, I give the Pepco team so much credit and sitting with the city council and the mayor to really say this is what we can accomplish and what you can hold us accountable for in Maryland PGE is doing the exact same thing. In Illinois, the legislation that just passed comed is going to be a leader in the electrification effort. We are replacing several 100 miles of our gas pipeline to make it safer and more resilient and cleaner. So we're leaning in and putting our money where our mouth is. So I'm proud of the team.
JB Holston 15:33
That's great. Well, you know, as a former engineering and computer science, Dean, that's helpful. And I think one of the themes that we we can touch on through the conversation is leading the way is setting setting example having quantitative goals, being transparent about those. And we'll talk more about this as we get to community. But I think I think the question of sort of collective commitment is one that is relevant in all these areas. And, and where organizations like yours can really lead the way towards showing people how to do that in some way that doesn't disrupt the business.
Calvin Butler 16:06
Absolutely, because what you and I never want anyone to feel that utility company is not aware are listening to what their customers are wanting, and what the jurisdictions are saying we need to do. So by putting out and leaning with leading with our chin on our stated goals. Some may say that's not enough, some may say it's not soon enough. But we will sit back and say, What more would you have us do? Let's look at it and see what we can do. These are goals. But our ambition is that we will achieve them faster. But you can only do that through partnerships. And by putting out where we're standing, where we're going, and our course our destination, it allows others to come in and partner with us and say, Have you considered this. So for example, our investment, we're investing in hydrogen, to see exactly how hydrogen can can flow through our system, renewable gas. So all of those things are only as a result of us leading with a plan. And because others wouldn't have known that we were in the game like that. So that's the advantage of doing this.
JB Holston 17:08
That's great. Well, well, thank you for that. And let's talk a little bit about equity, diversity, and inclusion. And again, I think, you know, your organization has led, particularly with respect to initiatives like supplier diversity in very significant ways. Talk a little bit about the history at Exelon of focus on this as a category of work, if you would, and then I'd like to dive a little bit more deeply on the on the supplier diversity side.
Calvin Butler 17:38
Wow. Thank you. Thank you, you know, like many organizations around the country, the last two years with the death of George Floyd, Ahmad Aubrey, it brought diversity, equity and inclusion into the forefront. You know, you didn't start a team's meeting our zoom meeting without speaking about Dei, how your employees were feeling and reacting at the time. And we were no different. All the wheat to your point. And I appreciate the feedback. We were on that journey. But what we recognize is we had a lot of work to do. Even being as far as advanced as we thought we were we recognize from hearing direct feedback from our employees. No, we were still just scratching the surface. So I'm proud that we rolled up our sleeves and we dug deeper. You know, one of the things, you know, that was just on the surface, we changed that office to diversity, equity and inclusion ranking, recognizing that equity was just as important to ensure that people felt valued. And they could show up to work in Revit, and be themselves each and every day. And they felt opportunities existed for them. So that was just one right off, up and out the gate. And then we sat back and really started having difficult conversations or not difficult, tough conversations around the enterprise as to what we were doing well. And where we were challenged, we created a racial, racial equity task force within the organization made up of all levels of the organization that could give us feedback and make recommendations. Some of the things that came out of a gap where they said, Look, where's our dollars going? What are you? Who are you supporting with our PAC dollars? What type of policies are you leaning into? What type of amicus briefs are you supporting or not supporting? You know, I hear you talk about your He for She initiatives, but where's your dollars going to support those efforts? Are you really trying to build a workforce of the future that represents the communities that we serve? All of those things came out of that racial equity Task Force, and took us three to four layers deep on how we were leaning in, because that was very important to us. Because what I said, Hey, let's leave with our values. If you leave with your values, some regulators and legislators may be frustrated with you, but your employees will always know where you stand And we've been very transparent about our values and who we are doesn't mean we get everything right. I'll be the first to admit it. But it does show that we're not afraid to state what they are and who we are and what we're representing in our communities. On the supplier diversity set, that's just and I continue to continued evolution again of who we are, when I can, I can honestly tell us that no one regulated us to do this. This is something that we saw and continue to see as good for business. Think about it. Across Exelon, we spent 2.7 billion with diverse businesses in 2022. Point 7 billion in the utilities, there was 2.2 billion, up 41% since 2016. They invited us and accepted us into the billion dollar round table years ago. And now we're in the $2 billion Club, which I think it's lonely. But that's okay. That's what we want it right. And when we talk about being in that space, we're hiring companies from the communities in which our employees work and live. And they're hiring neighborhood people from the neighborhood. They're growing. We're changing families. I sit back and shared with stories about I was with a contractor on Monday. And he said when he bought his company in 2012, he had 45 employees and was roughly $12 million in revenue. He said Calvin to damn well over 200 employees, and 45 and plus 45 million plus. And I asked him because I knew the answer. I said, Who's your largest client? He said, VG. I said, How's the partnership going? He goes, I can't keep up with the growth. I can't, but it's difficult. I said, What an exciting problem to have. And that's really what we're talking about. We're creating generational wealth. We're talking about making a difference. So what I'm most proud of is the fact that no one legislated us to do this, we saw it. And I think what you see is the direct correlation with our MWBE participation and our customer satisfaction, because now people see our utilities as part of the fabric of the neighborhoods in which we operate.
JB Holston 22:20
Calvin, let's talk about lessons that other organizations might learn from the way you've gone to achieve that kind of magnitude and success with with MBs. Maybe we just go down a level and talk a little bit more about what are some of the things specifically that you've been able to do to to help an organization like the one that you just mentioned, that's been able to get on that, you know, career, family sustaining job creation journey, which is so foundational to the success in America.
Calvin Butler 22:51
We were very intentional about those efforts. You know, when I stepped in and CEO of BGE, BGE was spending JB about 14% of their supply spin with MWBE. And they were doing it about a 1% incremental growth annually. And they thought they were doing wonderful. We partner with an outside organization. At that time, Wayne Frazier with Maryland minority Contractors Association and said, Wayne, help us identify what we can do to grow this. And this wasn't about big getting credit was about us, again, that collective us, we created a program called Focus 25. And we identified 12 organizations that we brought them in house for eight month no 10 months out of the year. Their CEO CEOs introduce them to the contracting process within BGP, introduce them to the commodity buyers, train them on how to do business with large enterprises. So I wanted them to be successful at BGP, but more importantly, I wanted them to be successful with other large companies. So we train them, they had a platform to ask questions. They had read big develop, develop relationships. And then after that, 10 months, they graduated from focus 25. All of the CTO of my office, my direct leaders, my leadership team came down, celebrated them. Now it's very important to note, we didn't guarantee them any business. We'd guaranteed them a platform to be successful. But they were not assured after that 10 months that they would get a dime worth of additional business. But they participated at the highest levels of the organization. And I'm here to tell you that every one of them have grown their platform, some of them have merged. Some of them has sold their businesses, but that's what it's about. So we were very intentional. And I'm pleased to tell you that BG was 14%. In 2014, they finished 2020 at 43% of their supply SMent. So again, you went from 1% implemental growth to 43% in 2020 because we were very intentional. And we saw the results because they made those small businesses made us better. And that's what I always remind people, we didn't sacrifice quality, we didn't sacrifice cost. We held them to the same high standards, and they held us to high standards to be good business partners. And as a result of that we both succeeded. Yeah.
JB Holston 25:22
This is a good segue to a broader conversation about engaging more broadly with the community, Calvin, and oftentimes for organizations that just feels like attacks, it just feels like yeah, we could do that we could we could help support these initiatives. But boy, we've got so many things to do, just internally that why bother? You're well known for your engagement with the community and for for for having Exelon really be community. First, share a little bit about how you've been able to do that. And and the value if you will have, I've taken that approach.
Calvin Butler 26:02
I think JB, I don't know how you can run a business that you say is intimately involved are part of the community and where you're headquartered, and where your employees live and work and not be engaged in the community. I don't see it as an either or it's and, and, and it's just how I'm building how we do business. Because, you know, I used to, I quote, My Angelo, and you know, others have told me, it was Theodore Roosevelt. But you said, people don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care. And what I've learned is that when you demonstrate to the your customers, that you care about what's important to them, and take the time to listen to what's important to them, you then can put dollars an effort to making their communities better and stronger. So when you look at our whole corporate philanthropy philosophy, over $180 million of our philanthropic giving, goes to organizations that support diversity, equity and inclusion. That's, that's significant, because our customers are telling us that they want their communities to be vibrant. Again, keep in mind, the cities that we operate in, I cannot grow my business. If the communities in which I operate, it aren't economically thriving. And I want my workforce of the future coming out of those communities. So therefore, my workforce development programs need to be geared toward those local high schools, those community college, really stressing STEM education, but also saying to you, if you don't want if you don't want to get a college degree, but want to have a family sustaining career, there's a place at BG across Exelon for you. And we can work with you to get that done. So it's a dual track there. So that is the why for me. And it really talks about us being able to make a deeper impact in those communities.
JB Holston 28:02
If I might Calvin, let me go back to the supplier diversity question for for a moment in talking with some of your partner organizations, the consulting firms, for example, they've spoken to me about how critical the fact that you asked them and not asked but you know, insisted that they also meet very specific targets. Talk a little bit about how that how that developed and, and they and how it came to work. Because I'm sure that first conversation with a lot of those folks, it was it was not obvious that that was gonna it was going to work well.
Calvin Butler 28:38
Yeah, that's funny, I sit back and I tell you, we've got some wonderful partners, but and some came one more easily. But what we've said is that if you're going to work with us, you're important and want to be considered a true partner. This is this is the our platform, this is who we say we are. So therefore we look forward to working with you to get you there recognizing that this is a journey for all of us. Right. So under the Exelon was one of the first organizations to sit back and say we need people of color and women to be on those consulting teams that you send in to work with us. You know, we need we need to show because as you know whether it's a lawyer, an accountant or consultant, getting on those big client, having those big clients and putting in the hours in the project leads you to partnership track. And too often we would sit around the room and it would be a non diverse room working with us. So our employees I we were looking at and said okay, this, how can we have these values, but the people that we're working with the firms that we're working with not are not demonstrating the same values. So we started holding them accountable. We started saying we want to know who's working on our business. And we want to see and we asked for the billable hours to Who was getting, because it's one thing to come to the meeting and have a very diverse team, it's another thing to go back to the office and put it all to a couple of people. So we reached out and we started rewarding them, we started having an annual award for the companies and the bankers that were doing it better than others. And you know, you know, competition breeds success, right. And you know, everybody's got a little competitive edge to them, and everyone wanted to outdo another. And what we saw is that now the teams that were representing us, were as diverse as we wanted them to be. Because we at the core of all of this jayvees, we believe diversity of thought leads us to be successful, we have a greater likelihood of success with the diversity of thought. So that was the core of it. We wanted opportunity for growth with all the people but at the end of the day, we recognize we were getting a better product, when they put diverse people around the table to work on our issues, and work on our behalf. So that was the piece and we were leading that I think one of our executives bill by Haney had an opportunity to speak at a subcommittee of, of Capitol Hill about our efforts, because they recognize we were leading in that in that realm. And we continue to push and lead and pride and encourage, we want our IT suppliers, the largest ones, their centers, the Oracle's to sit back and take the time to hire and subcontract with minority it suppliers. Why? Because they can do things more efficient and bring some skill sets that the large ones players aren't able, in that we're providing them capacity to do.
JB Holston 31:38
I can I can certainly tell you from having talked with a number of those folks, that that their behavior has changed in light of in light of the structured means that you've got about asking them to step up over the past few years.
Calvin Butler 31:53
I believe I fundamental to our belief on that, JB is that the pie the pie doesn't have to get smaller for anybody. Yeah, I believe is that as we grow, everyone grows. And I hope our partners, our large partners have seen that. And I know our smaller partners have, but it's truly changing that mindset that now I'm giving a part of my business, I said no, not at all, we're all of us are going to grow. And we all have opportunity to grow. So don't think about giving up a segment think about growing the pie overall. And that's when we can all be successful.
JB Holston 32:25
Yeah. If we talk about community and engaging others in, in the work and in the journey, you know, as you know, the partnership, really, since the murder of George Floyd and others, it has said, inclusive growth and really increasingly common, we're talking about sustainable, inclusive growth, because I do think the sustainability in the climate sense, and also in terms of the resilience of the job, etc. sense, are as foundational now. But you know, the work we've done, it clearly shows that the most inclusive economy, the most equitable economy is also going to be the fastest growth economy. Right, that this is not, for the reasons that you cited, diversity is strength, etc. The region has a great deal of diversity, he's got that foundational asset when it comes to these. But the organization's are very different points in terms of their journey with respect to inclusion. And, you know, we've collectively said, gee, if we could close the equity gap, that's a $70 billion per year GDP opportunity for this for this region. And that's Boy, that's you know, that's that's a lot of unicorns, how else are we going to get, you know, simply unicorns that quickly. But you, if you think about methods to get collective action outside of just one company? I know you've been involved in various kinds of initiatives, both locally and others around that, what have you seen that works? What are some of the lessons learned as we try to collectively aggregate our efforts to really scale up impact?
Calvin Butler 33:58
That's a great question. And let me just reaffirm, what was the underpinning of your statement? It's a collective effort. You know, I spent a lot of time talking about Exelon and different companies in here. But this has truly been a collective effort. And what I found is that when you collaborate with like minded individuals, like minded organizations, the impact that you can have this far greater, and I could just run down a list of examples about what we have done with others, that it goes to show you that one plus one is five, right? And it's amazing in the process. And what I what I can tell you maybe is that when you bring the group, let's just say the Washington partnership, when you bring us together, and we commit on a couple of things, one, so let's say we commit on supply, we're going to all spend more with minority and women owned businesses. We set three 510 year goals And we hold ourselves accountable for those reaching those goals. We, we bring in those partners, we train them, we sit back and say we want you to grow, we want you to do better. And by us stepping out of the collective group, and saying we're committed, that's just one example of how we could leverage who we are with the collective conscious, I think to workforce development, committing to educating high school, college students in the jobs of the future, training them, and then providing those high schoolers and college students internships. Again, holding us accountable. One of the things that we're doing within Exelon is doing a survey of the jobs that we have open and looking at which ones really require a college degree. And if they don't asking ourselves, why do we have a college degree as a prerequisite? Who are we holding back from getting in there? Think about the impact of that on the communities when we talk about closing the racial equity gap. I would also say committing to invest in broadband, closing that digital divide. We talk about people working from home and being educated from home, it's tough to get educated when you can't even get online or have a consistent connection to hear your teacher or to engage with your peers. And that's that's all about that digital divide in the racial equity gap. We how do we how do we close that? And can we as a group make a collective effort that this is going to be something that we hone in on and really say we're going to take our base and invest in this and show that we're different in this region? I think those are some, it's I like to say, you know, those are layups, right. Those are all of these people can agree to, in some form or fashion recognize, we may all be at different stages of that journey. But if we came together and said, What are the two to three things that we wanted to really hone in on and hold ourselves accountable for and putting metrics behind it, we can demonstrate success and get people excited about who we are.
JB Holston 37:12
Calvin so we, you know, we completely concur in. And as I say, just appreciate your organization's leadership on these issues. Because I do think that's also a significant part of it, we you know, you need, you need folks to stand up and say, This matters, and we're doing it and and, and others will will quickly follow it. And I think your your efforts to do that, without it being about Exelon along the way is also a hallmark of what's different about your approach. Let me I'm going to go a little bit off topic here. But I'd love to talk to you about back to the office. And I know it's a bit different for you, because you have so many frontline workers and have had but a lot of the organizations in the partnership are increasingly concerned about the potential impact on downtown's of this this, you know, hybridisation of office work. You know, you look at the data in DC, for example, the restaurants here have been hit worse than any of the other the top 50 jurisdictions in the country. And the pace at which they're going to come back is a real question. You know, Baltimore, of course, there are concerns as well. How are you thinking about that, that that question?
Calvin Butler 38:24
Well, we are it's something that we speak on weekly, if not, in have some conversations daily? Well, first and foremost, we're concerned about the safety of our employees. And so that is the first and foremost we've so we're following the CDC guidelines. And that is leading the discussion on where we're going. What I've always said to our leaders within the business, bring your employees back for business purposes, but only if you can do it in a safe, socially distance manner. We were ready to bring people back right after labor day before the Delta variant hit. And we were going to bring people back I think was about 25% of our employees right after Labor Day, Delta, very hit, we held off on that. So now we're trickling people back in, but it's on an as needed basis, because like you, and like our jurisdictions, we are very concerned with the downtown areas and areas around our offices. But at the end of the day, I've said we're not going to jeopardize the safety of our team members. And but so what we have right now to be as our leaders are bringing people in as needed in small groups, training is still occurring. HR activities are still occurring. Small group meetings, as I mentioned to you earlier, I was just in DC yesterday. And so there's small groups that are coming in, but not to the scale and I doubt that we will ever be back 100% Fully we will always have some type of hybrid working environment because to be honest We've demonstrated we can do it. Our employees have enjoyed it. And they've demonstrated that they can be as efficient and effective. But we will require some imperson work on every day of the week and during the week going forward.
JB Holston 40:16
Yeah. Well, thanks for that. I know, it's something that all organizations are keeping a watchful eye on and looking to try to, to understand if I zoom out a little bit, and you think about the Baltimore to Richmond region, generally, obviously, you do business in Maryland, you do business in the district, but you know, the region, I've been here for some period of time, what strikes you as the as the advantages? And also the the challenges for the region generally?
Calvin Butler 40:42
Oh, great, great question. I can tell you what I've always enjoyed about the region. I've always enjoyed the level, the educational institution, the health care institutions, and museums. I mean, you talk about just rich and culture, diversity, just the fabric of the of the DMV is just amazing. I'm a Midwestern. And I used to always say the only thing that was going to get me out of the Midwest was the DMV. Right? And, and then here I am. So it's that fabric and culture. And that that drew me in what keeps me the challenges is, is that we look at ourselves, I think, in silos, it's very difficult. And what I love about the partnership is that you guys are really working hard to break down those silos and say, We need to attack our problems regionally because people can live in Baltimore and work in the district can live in Virginia work in addition, so are our citizens don't view themselves in a bubble, but yet our policymakers sometimes think very siloed in approach to issues. So my belief is that that is the biggest problem. And it takes organizations like yours to sit back and say, let's think bigger, let's think broader, and really address the issues holistically, because if one of us aren't as successful or strong, none of us will be. And that is what I'm encouraged with. But that is what I think is the biggest issue.
JB Holston 42:12
Well, I wanted to thank you again, Calvin, my guest has been Calvin Butler is Senior Executive Vice President of Exelon Chief Executive Officer of Exelon utilities. I did want to thank you, Kevin, for your time for your leadership and for sharing with us today. Many of those lessons learned
Calvin Butler 42:29
JB Thank you for having me. What I can tell you is that not only myself and my family, but the entire team are committed to making a difference. So I thank you for allowing us to be part of the inclusive growth strategy, because I think working with like minded individuals, like like minded organizations is truly going to make a difference. So thank you again.
JB Holston 42:49
Yeah, thank you again, my guest has been Calvin Butler. Calvin, thanks so much for the time. And thanks, everyone for joining us today on fresh take.
Nina Sharma 42:57
Thanks for tuning into fresh take. This episode was produced by Jenna climb, Christian Rodriguez, Nina Sharma, and Justin Matheson Turner. If you like what you heard, share it with your network. For more information and to access all of our podcasts, events and publications, visit Greater Washington partnership.com.