‘Purpose, people and impact’: Rumsey talks about Cummins’ future at EDC annual meeting

Jennifer Rumsey stepped into the role of president and CEO at Cummins, Inc., in August, becoming the first woman to lead the company in its 103-year history — a history that, as she told audience members at the Greater Columbus Economic Development Corp.’s 2022 annual meeting, is rooted in diesel.

However, as Rumsey’s promotion shows, the company has to evolve with the times — not just in terms of leadership, but also in terms of planning for a greener future.

Rumsey discussed the company’s “Destination Zero” strategy for achieving that future during the economic development corporation’s luncheon on Friday at The Commons. The sold-out event marked the organization’s first in-person annual meeting since 2019.

In her address, Rumsey noted that Cummins’ work supports products such as trucks, buses and construction equipment that are important for everyday life, but these items also “play a major role in the carbonizing of our world.”

Nevertheless, she said that the challenge of decreasing emissions and achieving decarbonization is a “growth opportunity” for Cummins.

“Just as we leveraged the need to innovate and evolve our products for the last several decades, we’ll continue to do that,” said Rumsey.

She highlighted four focus areas for the move to greener technology — working with customers, promoting inclusivity, prioritizing people and purpose and committing to create results.

In regards to the first item, Rumsey said that Cummins needs to start by working with customers to understand their needs and how they can continue to serve these clients as technology changes.

Additionally, the company needs to focus on “leveraging diverse perspectives.” Rumsey said that, given the challenges ahead, Cummins has to ensure that it creates a welcoming, inclusive environment where people are able to contribute their diverse perspectives and ideas.

“What we continue to invest in the people of Cummins, how we create purpose for them, develop them and help them to meet their full potential is deeply personal to me, because I benefited from a career at Cummins and have been able to become CEO because of that focus on creating an inclusive environment and advancing people and helping them see what they can become,” said Rumsey.

She also acknowledged that education will play a role in the transition, since new skills will be needed as Cummins evolves toward its environmental goals.

During her presentation, Rumsey emphasized that the shift to greener technologies will take time and displayed a chart depicting Cummins’ planned move towards zero-emissions, with the company nearing that rate around 2050.

“Often, when we talk about decarbonization, people think the change is happening right now,” said Rumsey. “And the reality is, this transition will take time.”

She said that Cummins’ “Destination Zero” strategy has a two-fold focus on the present and future. The company plans to start today by focusing on reducing CO2 emissions and looking at available engine-based solutions. At the same time, it will also work to accelerate solutions that will get them to the zero-emissions finish line.

Rumsey’s chart showed investment in different solutions taking place over the next decade. After that, she expects solutions to develop and be deployed at different speeds. The hope is that zero emissions solutions will become “broadly available” around 2040 to 2050.

In closing her address, Rumsey challenged her audience to think about their own roles in making the world — and their community — a better place.

“How do you give back?” she asked. “How do you help make the community a better place? How do you touch each life where you have the opportunity to make a difference? Because together, we can do amazing things.”