Fastlane

April 11, 2014

GM and the Climate Declaration: Why We Signed

Today's post explains why General Motors became the first automaker to sign the Climate Declaration one year ago.

As we’ve said time and again, there is economic opportunity in tackling climate change. That’s why General Motors became the first automaker last year to sign the Climate Declaration. By putting our signature on the dotted line, we committed to working toward a more sustainable business that retains the best interests of our customers and stakeholders while protecting the environment.

To put it simply, we don’t profess to be climate scientists, but we understand our world is changing. We must do our part to address the many sustainability challenges that come along with it. Our charge is to ensure our products stay relevant and meet various customer needs while helping conserve the resources our industry relies on.

This means doing business differently and rewriting the rules on manufacturing. It means embracing advanced technologies. If we’re going to help lead the path to a cleaner energy future and remain competitive as a company, we need to change the way we operate and hopefully help a broader transition across industry.

The Climate Declaration is organized by sustainable business advocacy group Ceres and its Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy coalition, long-time partners of ours.

We all know that addressing climate change is a team sport. No one entity can bring about the results our world needs, and this declaration is a good example. You now have 750 business organizations that have signed to date, rallying around the cause and raising awareness of how we can reduce environmental impact while strengthening our businesses.

Our signature shows commitment, but everyone knows actions speak louder than words. From a product standpoint, we are making some pretty bold moves. In fact, we’re restructuring our entire portfolio to maximize vehicle efficiencies. Our intent is to set a new standard in fuel economy and reduce carbon emissions around the globe…all in a way that serves our customers and their various needs.

Over the last year, we’ve introduced two new electrified vehicles, the Chevrolet Spark EV and the Cadillac ELR extended-range electric vehicle. They join the Chevrolet Volt, the best-selling plug-in electric vehicle in 2013 and 2012.  We’re also progressing in other advanced technologies and have announced partnerships with Honda and U.S. Army to advance fuel cell system and technology development. Sometimes systemic challenges require some unlikely alliances.

These product advancements complement the work we’re doing to improve our manufacturing efficiency. We’re removing coal-fired boilers, investing in renewable energy and applying green building practices throughout our global enterprise. In the last year, we’ve added four new LEED certifications and two ISO 500001 energy management certifications. Beyond the environmental benefits, here are a few examples of how this work positively impacts our bottom line.

  • Met the voluntary ENERGY STAR Challenge for Industry at nine additional plants for an industry-leading total of 63 facilities worldwide. These combined efforts saved us $162 million in energy costs.
  • Invested $24 million to use 14 more megawatts of landfill gasat Fort Wayne and Orion assembly plants to avoid 23,000 metric tons of CO2 per year and save a combined $10 million in energy costs annually.
  • Participated in U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings, Better Plants program to achieve 25 percent combined energy use reduction at 25 plants by 2018 for a savings of $7 million.
  • Cut energy use by more than 20,000 metric tons of CO2 at three buildings recognized in EPA’s National Building Competition: Battle of the Buildings, saving $1 million.

Like I mentioned before, partnerships and collaboration are key, from government entities like the DOE and EPA to groups like the U.S. Green Building Council and the Solar Energy Industries Association. In fact, SEIA named us a “Solar Champion” for significantly impacting the establishment of a strong U.S. solar industry.

We’re pretty proud of a few recent accomplishments. The EPA recognized us last week with a 2014 ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence Award for superior energy management and the Climate Communications Award for raising consumer awareness of climate change. We also earned a perfect score in the CDP Global 500 Climate Change Report 2013, demonstrating leading practices for measuring emissions and energy and transparency for our climate change strategy.

Anne Kelly, director of the BICEP coalition at Ceres, said we’ve come a long way in adapting to today’s market and environmental climate.

It’s nice to hear that from Ceres, but we know there’s much more to be done.

With customer-driven sustainability integrated into our business model, a commitment to environmental stewardship and a global team working to reinvent automotive DNA, we’re hoping next year will provide even more proof that tackling climate change presents economic opportunity.

By Mike Robinson, Vice President of Sustainability and Global Regulatory Affairs

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