Influential Leaders

Tam Robert Nguyen

Global Head of Impact and President of, Bechtel Corporation
Recognition Year(s): 2023
Area of Impact: CSR or Sustainability
School: Newcastle University Business School, Newcastle University
Location: United Kingdom

Tam Nguyen is the global head of sustainability at Bechtel Corporation. With two decades advancing the role and impact of business in society through global partnerships, business diplomacy, and corporate sustainability, Nguyen has helped evolve the organization’s corporate responsibility; sustainability; and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards. He has contributed to some of the world’s most widely used ESG benchmarks and uses his intrapreneurial mindset to integrate and diversify sustainability in major multinational corporations.

Nguyen also has a growth mindset. He sets his vision, considers how to get there, and sees it through. He is guided by his belief that sustainability is not isolated from politics, policies, institutions, and systems and that it does not reside in one function or one leader—everyone must be responsible. He has ideated and contributed to progressive policy initiatives that enable corporations to contribute to global development, created internal startups within corporations that reimagine the deployment of capital for societal impact, delivered sustainability strategies across structurally complex corporations, and helped multistakeholder partnerships solve pressing societal challenges like human trafficking.

When Nguyen helped conceive, he made societal impact the driver of infrastructure delivery and reoriented the projects to not only improve lives but enable the societal impact sector to build better projects. His curiosity and thought leadership led to numerous awards and visiting fellowships at leading institutions in Asia and the United States, including recognition as Asia Society’s Asia 21 Young Leader in 2006. As a speaker, contributor, author, and board member, Nguyen uses these platforms to share his ideas and help empower others to think differently, innovate, and create sustainable methods.

Nguyen’s doctorate in business administration (DBA) from Newcastle University remains the foundation of his professional life. The education the DBA program provided not only channeled his interests and intrapreneurial mindset and skills but aided in developing his overarching strategy to help large, complex corporations “grow [sustainability] from within.” Nguyen learned to integrate and diversify sustainability in some of the world’s largest multinational corporations, launch flagship corporate enterprises dedicated to delivering social impact, and mobilize business and non-business organizations to tackle global sustainability challenges. Further, Nguyen’s business education provided him with the insight and tools needed to focus on the durability of sustainability in companies by centering strategies and tactics around macroorganizational behavior.

The skills developed during Nguyen’s DBA program provided him the platform to:

  • Author Bechtel’s Net Zero blueprint and ESG framework.
  • Launch Bechtel’s first social impact company,
  • Launch Chevron’s 50 million USD social enterprise, Niger Delta Partnership Initiative.
  • Co-found and launch the Healthcare Electrification and Telecommunications Alliance to connect 10,000 African health facilities to solar and digital.
  • Launch a 30 million USD initiative between Japan and the Inter-American Development Bank to facilitate ASEAN-Latin American development.
  • Mobilize 18 energy companies to transform IPIECA (global oil/gas association) into the industry’s authoritative body to implement the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
  • Co-found and launch the Building Responsibility initiative to promote worker welfare in the engineering, procurement, and construction industry.

Nguyen has taught courses to immigrants and college and graduate students on corporate intrapreneurship and sustainability. He enjoys learning from his students and their unique backgrounds, experiences, and ideas on the evolution of sustainability.

In addition to sharing his time through teachings and simple one-on-one conversations, Nguyen creates opportunities for the next generation of societal impact leaders. He launched an innovative corporate externship program for early career professionals. In this program, participants learn to build empathy for communities affected by climate change and reorient and retool their technical know-how for societal impact. Nguyen actively recruits, mentors, and provides leadership roles for young people in the corporate sustainability organizations he runs and seeks to “work himself out of a job” to enable these professionals to take over. Many of these colleagues have transitioned to leadership roles in other global business and non-business organizations.

The skills Nguyen has developed through his DBA education and employment provided him with the opportunity to become a Dean’s D.C. Fellow at Darden Business School. As a fellow, Nguyen gives students insight through his many experiences in business. His commitment to developing leaders focused on societal impact is further evident in his role as co-chair on the U.S. Council for International Business Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Committee. Nguyen’s experience working internationally aligns with Newcastle University Business School’s commitment to building a responsible future for business and society. As an active member of the school, Nguyen’s story empowers students, alumni, and supporters to make a difference around the world, regardless of location.