General Motor’s Response to Climate Change

General Motors, a company widely known for its enormous SUVs and trucks, as well as its legion of subsidiary brands, has officially taken a company stance against climate change. On May 1, GM became the first automaker to sign the Climate Declaration Pledge, an agreement authored by climate change nonprofit Ceres – a longtime critic of GM – that officially emphasizes sustainability as a company policy.

Since the dawn of the environmental movement in the mid-20th Century, the automotive industry has not exactly been viewed as a friend or positive influence. The popularity of large SUVs and trucks in the 1990s and early 2000s only served to widen the perceived gulf between environmentalists and carmakers. Former GM products such as the Hummer series have become emblematic of the theory that fossil fuel-burning vehicles have played a large role in the planet’s recent climate shifts.

GM has spent enormous sums of money and untold amounts of time in recent years ramping up its commitment to environmentalism. Cars such as the Chevy Volt are high profile examples of what GM refers to as its commitment to hybrid and sustainable vehicle technology.

According to a GM press release, the corporation has recently “committed to a new set of resource conservation and environmental stewardship initiatives over the next decade.” As such, GM has committed to reducing total waste from production by 10 percent, reduce carbon intensity from facilities by 20 percent, promote water quality and reduce water intensity by 15 percent.  The company also plans to promote community outreach on environmental issues, and it plans to accomplish it all of this – among other goals – by 2020.

Requirements imposed by the President Barrack Obama’s administration have stipulated that automakers must double overall fuel efficiency by 2025, to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and small trucks. GM’s push to be more environmentally friendly can thus be seen not simply as a response to advocacy groups, but rather as concrete steps on the road to meeting the terms of this oncoming federal regulation.

GM CEO Dan Akerson best summarized the company’s new policy with a recent statement: “It has also become clearer that reducing waste and increasing efficiency is good for the bottom line of the business.”

With consumers increasingly conscious of high prices at the pump and of the environmental realities of modern transportation, this environmental emphasis can only help GM in the long run.

[Sources: General Motors, Detroit Free Press, NBC News]