Emily Pilloton

GENERAL ELECTRIC ECOMAGINATION

by , 03/24/07

Ecomagination illustration, GE Ecomagination, Evolution Series Locomotive, General Electric, Green Marketing Campaign, Green Branding Campaign

The folks at General Electric have recently put together a series of informative, compelling, and visually stunning videos as part of their Ecomagination “commitment.” Here’s a video about their Evolution Series Locomotive, a lean mean high-performing machine which truly “defies the perception that greater efficiency means less power,” using 189,000 fewer gallons of fuel in its lifetime than its predecessors….


And this is just one of the many ground-breaking Ecomagination initiatives. We think this is a great example of a company using their resources to combine both increased productivity and environmental-sensitivity, proving that green is not just good for the planet, but good for business.

GE is trying to prove (and we hope they are successful) that a corporate commitment to greener products, systems, and technologies is not only environmentally responsible, but financially beneficial as well. GE’s Ecomagination products are a central part of their wider corporate sustainability initiatives, which are realized through their four commitments: Double Investments in Clean R&D, Increase Revenues from Ecomagination Products, Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Keep the public informed. Their Ecomagination homepage says it all: “Welcome to our vision of a healthier world.”

Ecomagination puts into practice GE’s belief that financial and environmental performance can work together to drive company growth, while taking on some of the world’s biggest challenges. Learn about the GE commitment to products and services that are as economically advantageous as they are ecologically sound.”

One other product we love is the Ecomagination photovoltaic solar panel, shown in this video in its applications to the wine industry. Other Ecomagination products include everything from an aircraft engine to CFL’s and wind turbines. See the full line of products on the Ecomagination site, and all the videos via YouTube.

+ General Electric Ecomagination

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18 Comments

  1. VlyUQnaAWh October 9, 2009 at 7:34 am

    Play educational and fun kids games

  2. Mike-2 June 12, 2007 at 9:24 pm

    @Ron: You said “They’re just following the buck. They’ll end up making a profit from the very problems they’re responsible for creating, and we’ll thank them for it.”

    So what? GE becomes environmentally friendly? What a disaster! And they’re paving the way for other corporations to go green too? We must stop them!! Wait… isn’t that what we want? It sounds like you care more about punishing GE, even if that means making actual environmental problems worse.

  3. Ted June 12, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    Sounds a lot like Nike to me. Used to be horrible, now might become a leader. Did Nike make up for what they did? If so, maybe GE will too. If not, GE can never make up for what they did and can only change to make what they do in the future a priority.

  4. Gary May 4, 2007 at 10:50 am

    Just a few facts…the average lifetime of a locomotive is 20 years. All of the railroads in the United States and Canada combined have upwards of 20,000 locomotives. Replacing each of those locomotives with an Evolution Series locomotive would theoretically save 3 BILLION 780 MILLION gallons of diesel fuel over a 20 year span. That’s a lot of GHG, NOX emissions and particulate pollution removed from the atmosphere. GE may get rich from it, but it would contribute significantly to a cleaner environment. That is just one product. Yes GE makes jet engines also, and one of those jet engines, the GENX also is more fuel efficient and produces less emissions. Replacing all of the jet engines in service with more fuel efficient less polluting jet engines would also contribute greatly to a cleaner environment. You may consider GE’s Ecomagination project to be green washing, but the fact still remains that they are spending millions, if not billions in an effort to produce products that are greener. What is also lost on many people, is that every major automaker in the US has fought the EPA, tooth and nail over emission standards. Sometime when you get a chance, go look at an oil refinery and see the impact that it has on not only the local environment but the global environment. I hope GE is successful in their efforts to become greener. Right now there aren’t many companies out there that are willing to stick their neck out and spend millions to make the planet greener. GE has it’s skeletons, but they are making an effort, when they don’t have to.

  5. Ashwin April 10, 2007 at 11:00 pm

    Although the Hudson PCB dumping story is sad, here are some of the facts:
    PCB dumping wasnt made illegal until 1976. GE was making PCB’s from 1938 and dumping them in the river as was every company on every river bank in America. Once they were asked to clean up their act , realizing that the clean up effort would cost millions, GE threatened the local govt by taking the jobs elsewhere. I believe although GE is entirely at fault for being negligient, Ecomagination has nothing to do with it. It is a promotional campaign designed to make a ton of cash for GE. GE has its 10 fingers in 20 different pies and given the sheer size of the company, I would be surprised if they are still polluting elsewhere. (maybe in China or India)

  6. Jill Danyelle Jill Danyelle April 2, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    Another viewpoint on a complex issue…

    I had brunch this weekend with a friend who worked as a lawyer on several of GE’s acquisitions of smaller power companies. His insight was that GE has not created these superfund sites as much as they may have inherited them along with their newer acquisitions. It seems at this point they try to insist that the companies they are looking to buy raise their environmental standards before they will purchase them. He expressed that they do intensive testing and analysis and usually suggest improvements that go above what the law requires.

  7. rich March 31, 2007 at 12:51 am

    The vid states “this efficient locomotive will use 189,000 fewer gallons of fuel in its lifetime.”

    What do you spose the lifetime of a locomotive IS? 60 years? 80?

    Relative to total fuel consumption, spread out over that lifetime, it seems like a very small improvement in efficiency.

  8. Emily (Inhabitat) March 28, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    This is an interesting discussion and one that we´re hearing more and more often as large corporations begin to take initiative to be more ¨green.¨ Many of your concerns are well-founded, and are based on the company´s admittedly not-so-green histories. But the reality is that most large companies have good things and bad things on their track record, and while GE may have a decent list of the bad, the Ecomagination initiatives are nevertheless worthy endeavors that are producing high-quality and environmentally-responsible products. We´re not endorsing the entire corporation of GE by posting this, but rather acknowledging a worthwhile effort and (hopefully) shift in some of the corporate trajectories.

    -Emily

  9. Jill Danyelle Jill Danyelle March 28, 2007 at 11:54 am

    I find this debate really fascinating and one that I think we are going to see a lot more of in the future. Kind of the growing pains of CSR if you will. On the one hand, as many have already commented, just the size of GE alone makes any of their eco-initiatives quite important environmentally and also influential to other Fortune 500 companies. They are reportedly the second-largest company globally. The same could be said of Wal-Mart, the largest company. The eco-initiatives of these companies are definitely news and we here at Inhabitat should be covering them. Just as, from the perspective from my apparel industry beat, writing about H&M’s organic cotton line is newsworthy. One could argue that all of the pesticides that go into the rest of their clothing outweighs their new initiative. However, we feel that 1) it is a step in the right direction and 2) because of the volume that H&M sells, their line is likely supporting the organic cotton industry more than the smaller all organic labels.

    On the other hand, I think we are seeing fragmented environmentalism. Should I have come across Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. at the Whole Foods Opening last night, which was also a benefit for Riverkeeper, and asked if he was wearing any organic cotton, driving a hybrid or using solar energy, what do you think he would have said? So, to some, buying CFLs is more important than supporting organic agriculture… yes, cotton is grown. However, these are all positive steps.

    Joel Makower wrote a piece on ecomagination over at World Changing back in 2005 that received much the same response that our piece has received here. However, Joel also worked as a consultant via GreenOrder on the project and gave us his front row views which are worth a read.

    I think we are stuck applauding one side of GE while finding another side of them quite distasteful. They, in fact, are the corporation with the most superfund sites in the U.S. It would be great if they made cleaning these up part of their new eco-initiatives or at least addressed this dichotomy…

    http://www.pirg.org/reports/enviro/super25/page3.htm
    America’s #1 Superfund Polluter: General Electric

    The most frequent, and perhaps the most notorious, of the Super Polluters is General Electric. Number five in the Fortune 500 with revenues of $89.3 billion and earnings of $8.2 billion in 1997, General Electric has been a leader in the effort to roll back the Superfund law and stave off any requirements for full cleanup and restoration of sites they helped create. GE, owner of NBC, the nation’s number one television network, and a host of subsidiaries continues to wage a high profile campaign against efforts to require cleanup of their current Superfund sites (including 200 miles of the Hudson River, the nation’s largest Superfund site). They are still fighting EPA efforts to list new Superfund sites where GE is a PRP, most notably in Pittsfield, Massachusetts where GE has contaminated the Housatonic River and parts of the neighboring community. Super Polluters examines the reported practices of GE at both the Hudson River and Pittsfield, MA sites, as well as their legislative efforts to free themselves of liability and responsibility for cleanups.

    the most resent information I could find on the status of the PCB clean up…

    http://www.epa.gov/hudson/
    February 8, 2007 – Statement by Alan J. Steinberg, U.S. EPA Regional Administrator – EPA has made tremendous progress moving the vast and complex cleanup of the Hudson River forward as fast as possible. The project is now proceeding in earnest. Due to several obstacles beyond our control, including legal actions and the seasonal nature of dredging, it has become necessary to extend the start date for dredging until the spring of 2009. The adjustment to the schedule is, at least in large part, the result of the delay caused by the legal challenge to the agreement with GE to conduct the cleanup. EPA remains firmly committed to the cleanup of the Hudson River and is confident we will continue our progress toward a cleaner Hudson for local communities and everyone who depends upon and values the river.

    other references:
    http://www.boston.com/business/globe/articles/2007/01/20/ge_profit_climbs_12_in_4th_quarter/?rss_id=Boston+Globe+–+Business+News
    http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/77/walmart.htm
    http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/002669.html
    http://www.greenorder.com/
    http://www.epa.gov/hudson/

  10. Miguel Marcos March 28, 2007 at 6:52 am

    If my knowledge doesn’t fail me, GE is also one of the biggest pushers and manufacturers of nulear energy (and weaponry) technology in the world. In addition, GE is one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of jet engines. Also, GE is the mother company of NBC Universal and, so, wields a fair amount of media influence. They make incandescent light bulbs. They’re a finance company. They manufacture plastics. The list is long.

  11. Mark March 28, 2007 at 12:41 am

    GE actually had a significant amount of environmental management systems in place in the 80′s and 90′s during Jack Welch’s reign, but they were overshadowed by his public battling with the EPA (as “Neutron Jack”). Now Jeff Immelt is pushing eco-magination as THE initiative to guide the growth of GE, and is the PR opposite of his predecessor. However, the behind-the-scenes lobbying and such is still taking place, just not in such a public manner.

    A LOT of those wind farm turbines around the world are made by GE and they are throwing their research arm and considerable resources behind finding ways to improve the environmental performance of heavy industries, which would, in turn, have one of the biggest impacts on reducing global GHG emissions.

    There are scientific arguments that state that dredging the PCBs from the Hudson would be en environmental disaster as they would stir up sediment and flood the rivers with the chemicals. Some argue it’s more ecologically sound to let them lie in their murky graves.

    Some people argue that global warming is highly overrated too…

    Some people think the world was created in seven days….

  12. Jennifer van der Meer March 27, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    I’m with Tamara from Ozocar – and in this case GE is caught on both sides of the fence. Greening their company, and Greenwashing too.

    On the one hand, they are an enormous company. Their mission is very specific- to reduce emissions, and invest in green technology, it’s metrics-focused, and GE is famous for meeting their metrics. They are the biggest company in the world making these promises, focusing on this mission, and it’s already had an impact on similar companies of that size. They will have more of an impact on climate change than I will with my flourescent lightbulbs.

    On the other hand, even looking at recent history – GE continues to lobby the EPA to fight emissions reductions for their locomotives. GE’s competitors are ready to make the change, but GE’s lobbyists argued that the EPA’s timeline was too fast. As the NRDC called it, a case of Eco-Procrastination.

    One thing is for sure – before EcoImagination, GE’s lobbying efforts would be talked about only in environmental circles. Now, the EPA locomotive emissions story is covered by the Wall Street Journal. This is what we celebrate- environmentalism isn’t dead, it’s now front page news, and investors are taking notice.

  13. Jill Fehrenbacher Jill March 27, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    Hi Ron-

    Since your guys’ comments I have been looking into this issue in more depth, and you are right – - it’s not pretty….

    Just found this website about the Hudson River problem:

    http://riverkeeper.org/campaign.php/ge_pcbs/the_facts/44

    Yikes!

    Okay, I honestly have to say that I really didn’t know very much about GE’s environmental history until now. I still stand by my point that we should encourage their new environmental commitment, but likewise, this issue of PCBs in the Hudson river should certainly be brought to the forefront as well. We will likely amend the post to include some of this information.

    Thanks again-
    Jill

  14. Ron March 27, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    Thanks, Jill, for your reponse. As I’ve stated more than once, I love you guys and the work you do, but this GE piece is a mistake. These guys are are proving, once again, that consumers will fall for anything. If they’d use their green advertising budget to instead clean up the Hudson it would have some real environmental impact, albeit 30 years too late. GE isn’t pushing a positive environmental approach, their being pulled into it. They’re just following the buck. They’ll end up making a profit from the very problems they’re responsible for creating, and we’ll thank them for it.

  15. Jill Fehrenbacher Jill March 27, 2007 at 10:23 am

    Hi Hv & Leonard & Ron-

    Thank you for comments and criticisms on this interesting issue regarding GE’s new green campaign. We obviously do not know everything there is to know about GE’s history with environmental policy – and it’s important to raise these issues, and so we appreciate your doing so. We are not promoting GE here or uncritically supporting them as much as simply printing the news about the latest “Ecomagination” campaign. With this post (as with every post), we hope to get a dialogue going and let readers make up their own minds about the issues at stake.

    I am not going to speak for Emily (the writer) or anyone else at Inhabitat, but this is a complicated issue and the jury is still out as far as we are concerned. Here is my personal position on this issue at the moment: all large corporations such as GE (and Walmart), are going to have plenty of negative environmental history – but it is still a positive step in the right direction (and still newsworthy), when companies such as GE decide to commit to trying to do a better job to clean up their act and clean up the planet. There is no doubt that this is part of a publicity campaign for GE, but I don’t think that this really matters so long as the campaign has a positive effect on company’s practices.

    As GE is a huge company with many different divisions and a long history, I do not doubt that the company has internal contradictions and some skeletons in their closet when it comes to environment policies and practices. That said, I still think that it is a step in the right direction for them to launch this “Ecomagination” campaign – which isn’t just a media/communications greenwashing project, but also a serious commitment within their R&D and product development departments to start building better and cleaner products. Companies like GE are so big, and have such a great impact on the economy and the environment at large, that even their baby steps in the right direction can have an important impact on the planet.

    So, while I think its imperative for readers to point out these sort of discrepancies between GE’s history and their new eco vision – I also think its important to give the company a chance – a chance to prove that it can change and it can initiate positive environmental projects. See our posts on Walmart for a similar debate >

    By the same token, its important to give us here at Inhabitat a chance as well! ;) You may not like a project, or you may think that a company is greenwashing (and frankly, you may be right) — but we are just here to report the news – we don’t create it. We have never set out to be investigative journalists, and we don’t claim to know everything (or even a lot) about every companies’ environmental track record. Our mission is simply to promote green design and to try to encourage companies to become more sustainable through better design. Readers can add to our reportage and often offer better insights into product, practices and companies than we do – so we encourage active commenting by all means.

    I personally believe that when large corporations engage in these types of “eco campaigns” – whether or not there is some greenwashing going on – this forces them into better behavior. Just the act of advertising environmental principles binds a company into putting its money where its mouth is to begin to start living up to its stated ambitions.

    Tamara Giltsoff, from Ozo Car and Treehugger, has an interesting philosophy on this which, she ellucidated at the PSFK panel discussion on greenwashing a few weeks back – ‘Sometimes its important to encourage a little bit of greenwashing in large corporations – because when companies put themselves out there and launch an ambitious environmental marketing campaign, they inevitably open a dialogue and open themselves up to all sorts of public criticism on their track record, which will lead to them cleaning up their act. This type of communication can quickly backfire on a company if there is no sincerity behind it, so the very act of engaging in this type of campaign usually forces a company to make a genuine effort to live up to its promises pretty quickly.

    So, this comment has become very long winded, but my point is simply that I think this “Ecomagination” campaign is a step in the right direction for GE. Certainly we think it is important to hear examples, opinions and arguments from the other side from readers, and ultimately I think the jury is still out on whether or not “Ecomagination” will foster better environmental practices from GE in the long term. Only time will tell. In the interim, lets keep the debate and dialogue going here…

  16. Ron March 26, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    Is it predictable that the same megacorporations that bare the greatest burden of guilt for the near destruction of our fragile ecosystem will now add to their fortunes by cleaning up the mess? Probably. And they’ll never lose a moment’s sleep.

    I think Inabitat really put their foot in it on this issue. I hope you’ll rethink your position. It’s tough to not fall for this kind of blatant greenwashing, though. The narrater’s voice is perfect. Each segment, with his overdub, was like a lost passage from 1984.

  17. Leonard E. Sienko, Jr. March 25, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    Printing this “puff piece” about General Electric, one of the country’s worst corporate citizens, calls into question the entire mission of your site.

    For a brief deescription of the actions of the company you are praising:

    http://www.coopamerica.org/programs/rs/profile.cfm?id=231

  18. hv March 25, 2007 at 10:54 am

    Here in the Hudson Valley we are still waiting for GE to clean up the mess they made of the environment. It’s hard to not simply consider GE’s “Ecomagination” greenwashing.

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