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November 18, 2010



A really interesting story that is enhanced by your insider tidbits. Chevy's site is nicely put together, but it is typically hard to discern how the decisions were made and what the real intentions and expectations were. I also hope that other automakers follow suit. BEF can also help by providing updates on the projects that are being funded. Thanks.

Marc Gunther

Very interesting Joel. This initiative felt to me like it was thrown together in a hurry when Joel Ewanick talked to me about it. I couldn't tell whether it was timed to coincide with the rollout of the Volt or the IPO (as you suggest). And I like your messaging much better than his.

But it certainly does seem as if the culture of GM (along with Ford and Nissan) is changing in ways that are all to the good.

They've got a lot riding on the Volt. If it's a hit (and the reviews have been awesome), great. If not, uh-oh.

Felix Kramer

Thanks for this, Joel -- I think you're on the right track in suggesting activities and messaging directed at jobs and investing in our infrastructure and our future. I said so at http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/1124.html and urged our subscribers to come over here and read your full posting.

Ryan T

It's a start, but "save the planet" with an 8 million ton reduction goal over 3-5 years, when humanity is releasing around 25 BILLION tons of fossil CO2 "annually"? Hmmm. Still, it would be interesting to see what the annualized reductions are five years from now vs. the annual emissions of all their vehicles.

hugh wilson

gm has a lot to make up for destroying their ev-1 vechile-. have they ever apologized to the general pubic for this?

Tree Planter

I think we can save the Earth for ourself - this is the secret. The key is in or hand: not to allow make us sad because of others' behaviour but do our best...

raz godelnik

Joel, You mentioned environmentalists and conservatives who might be against this, but I think you should also include the green biz people, as I don't think this step makes much sense from both a green marketing a strategic perspectives.

Few thoughts that come into mind:
1. This is just one step and not a long-time commitment with short and long term goals like we see with Wal-Mart, GE, Unilever, M&S and others, so I really doubt how much value it has for GM in terms of branding and changing people's perception of GM.

2. Strategically speaking, not only that offsetting is not innovative, but it doesn't have any connection to the core business of GM, which looks a bit weird when it comes from a company that manufactures products that no matter how you look at it contribute significantly to global warming. Wouldn't it make more sense to use the $40M to do something useful that is related to their core business?

Michael Porter and Mark Kramer of Harvard wrote in his 2006 article 'The Link Between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility' the following: "The fact is, the prevailing approaches to CSR are so fragmented and so disconnected from business and strategy as to obscure many of the greatest opportunities for companies to benefit society. If instead, corporations were to analyze their prospects for social responsibility using the same frameworks that guide their core business choices, they would discover that CSR can be much more than a cost, a constraint, or a charitable deed - it can be a source of opportunity, innovation and competitive advantage."

Well, at least to me, it looks like GM operated exactly in the way Porter and Kramer are describing as the wrong way. They could definitely do much better from a green biz perspective.

Joel Makower

Thanks, Raz. I appreciate your comment. And I'd agree with it if this were the only thing GM is doing -- the sum total of its environmental activities. Fortunately, it's not. GM has been doing a lot, though it isn't all evident in its cars. For starters, roughly half of its ~140 manufacturing plants worldwide are now "zero waste." GM is one of the largest users of landfill gas to produce electricity. And, of course, it's been investing in a range of new technologies, including, most notably, the Volt.


Its good to see global companies finally moving on this


I'll throw my hat in the ring with the term "Improvers." I like this because rather than looking to sustainability's end-point, it is an ambitious call to constantly look for ways to make things better. Do you want to provide the essential needs of the world's poor, or do you want to provide them opportunities for a better life? Do you want to sustain our ecosystems (i.e. avoid their collapse), or do you want to continually find ways to lessen our impact on them, thereby allowing them to flourish? Do we want a flat Triple Bottom Line, or do we want to point towards untold heights? Improvers will look to create the proverbial rising tide which carries all boats.

Thomas Electric Car

If GM wouldn´t be a carmaker, all these ecological efforts would be great. But the fact, that GM spends millions of dollars to save the earth by "planting trees" and on the other hand produces cars that need enormous amounts of fuel to drive, thats contradicting. They should invest in more efficient cars (e.g. electric cars) and a greener energy poduction infrastructure.


In order to make sure that the customers are appropriate for electric vehicles, GM could donate them this app


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