General Electric Energized by Green Markets
By J.R. Pegg
WASHINGTON, DC, May 9, 2005 (ENS) - Technologies that are good for the environment are good for business, General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt said today.
"Green means green," said Immelt, who announced a new initiative to double GE's investment in environmentally friendly technologies, improve its energy efficiency and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
Speaking in Washington, DC, Immelt said the company has launched the new strategy "not because it is trendy and moral, but because it will accelerate our growth and make us more competitive."
"There is a vast, new profitable market in cleaner technology," Immelt said, and GE is well positioned to capitalize on a range of opportunities.
The corporate giant is the world's largest company by market value and pulled in revenues of some $150 billion in 2004 - its 11 segments make a wide array of products, including turbines for power plants as well as jet and locomotive engines, solar panels, wind turbines, water purification systems, light bulbs and consumer appliances.
Citing rising energy costs, population growth and the growing concern about climate change, Immelt told the George Washington University audience "this is the perfect time to launch this initiative."
"This is the convergence of forces that demands a revolution of technology so that our country can stay competitive," he said. "We plan to lead that revolution."
"It is time for the private sector to assume its rightful place as a major catalyst for environmental change," Immelt said. "For too long too many people in the private sector have viewed protecting the environment as a 'no win' for business."
"We believe we can improve the environment and make money doing it," he said.
The five-part plan, dubbed "Ecomagination," calls for a doubling of GE's research and development investment in environmentally friendly technologies for commercial and consumer markets to $1.5 billion annually by 2010.
It also calls for a doubling of sales from these technologies to $20 billion by 2010 and the company expects developing nations will be key markets.
The belief that developing nations such as China, India and Mexico, won't aspire to stricter environmental standards "just isn't true," Immelt said.
"In many ways their needs are more profound then ours [in the United States]," he said.
Under the new plan, GE will also improve its own environmental performance by boosting its energy efficiency 30 percent and reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by one percent by 2012.
Immelt acknowledged that one percent "may not sound like much," but said it should be considered within the context of the company's growth rate.
Based on its projected growth GE's greenhouse gas emissions would rise 40 percent without this commitment, Immelt said.
The move reflects the company's recognition that "we are living in a carbon constrained world where the amount of CO2 must be reduced," Immelt said.
"I believe we must have a proactive business policy or we will get a reactive government policy," he said.
The fifth part of the plan is a pledge by the company to publicly report its progress on meeting the initiative's goals.
"Anytime you stick your neck out on a topic like this you run the risk of criticism on intent and cynicism on execution," Immelt said. "Everyone has a right to know how we are doing."
Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute, praised the initiative and called it "a hugely important step by one of the world's most important companies."
Lash, who spoke after Immelt at Monday's event, said it is "particularly encouraging" that General Electric is focusing its research on cleaner technologies and taking steps to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions.
Immelt said the nation's "failure to push the envelope on cleaner power and environmental technology is disappointing."
"So too is our failure to develop a coherent energy policy," he added.
Immelt called on the federal government to develop an energy policy that includes a permanent tax credit for wind energy, investment in clean coal technology and renewed support for nuclear power.
"Of course there are questions [about nuclear energy] and they need to be answered," Immelt said. "But narrow questions must not stop the quest for broader energy solutions.
The 49 year old GE Chairman and CEO urged policymakers to focus on the economic possibilities from technologies that protect the environment.
"I know that protecting our environment and building our economy go hand in hand," Immelt said. "The extent to which energy and environmental policy is about tradeoffs, we are never going to get anywhere. This debate is a loser."
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