Revving Up for Net Zero: GM’s Approach
Unpack GM's commitment to sustainability, from energy-efficient production to zero-emission vehicle technology.
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Steering Towards Sustainability: GM’s Green Vision

General Motors’ net zero goals

General Motors (GM) is committed to achieving net zero emissions and addressing climate change by reducing carbon emissions, increasing renewable energy usage, and improving energy efficiency. 

“Our Sustainability strategy supports our vision of an all-electric future, our carbon neutral goal, and our growth strategy, which we believe can lead to greater revenue and margin”. 

Katura Brown
(Global Foresight & Trend Manager)

Key milestones and progress

  • GM has set a goal to achieve net-zero emissions across its operations and value chain by 2030.
  • Scope 1 and 2 emissions: GM aims to reduce these emissions by 72% by 2035 and has achieved 53% of this goal.
  • Scope 3 emissions: GM targets a reduction in GHG emissions from the use of sold products of light-duty vehicles and has achieved 11% of this goal.
  • carbon neutrality: GM has already achieved carbon neutrality for its corporate operations.
Image of Mary Barra, GM CEO. Accompanying the image is a quote from her“When GM began the journey to an electric and autonomous future, our mission was to help create a better and safer future for all, guided by our vision of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.”
Source: GM Sustainability

Scope 1 and 2 emissions

General Motors (GM) aims to decrease its Scope 1 and 2 operational emissions by 72% by 2035, compared to a 2018 starting point. 

As of 2022, the company has accomplished 53% of this objective. 

  • This advancement has been achieved by enhancing the effectiveness of their operations and amplifying the adoption of renewable energy sources for electricity.
  • GM has additionally diminished its energy intensity in operations by 5%.

Scope 3 emissions

GM’s goal for reducing Scope 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the use of sold products of light-duty vehicles is to achieve an 11% reduction. 

The company has made progress in this area through various initiatives, including working with Conservation International on agroforestry projects in the Amazon Rainforest and Felinos Pantaneiros on biodiversity conservation. 

GM has also joined the First Movers Coalition, committing to low-carbon steel, aluminium, concrete, and cement, signalling a market demand for a net-zero transition.

Sustainability priority matrix

General Motors (GM) divides its sustainability priority matrix into three categories. 

Priority

Includes community development, freedom of association and expression, supplier diversity, Operational GHG emissions and efficiency, waste management, and water management. 

High Priority

Includes the circular economy, employee health and well-being, social responsibility, and innovation. 

Highest Priority

Includes business ethics, climate resilience, and product greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

GM's sustainability priority matrix

Waste reduction and circular economy initiatives

“We aim to divert more than 90% of our total operational waste from landfills, incinerators, and energy recovery facilities by 2025.”

GM is focused on improving circularity throughout the life cycle of their vehicles, spanning material selection and vehicle design, recycling, remanufacturing, and reuse, and sustainable packaging. Some of their achievements in this area include:

  • Selling over 750,000 units of remanufactured parts (9 million units since 2013)
  • Aiming to have 100% returnable, viably recyclable, reusable, or compostable packaging by 2030
  • Diverting more than 90% of total operational waste from landfills, incinerators, and energy recovery facilities by 2025 (100% of their goal)
Waste reduction targets at General Motors
GM Waste Management Methods (Image Source: 2022 Sustainability Report)

Enhancing water management and safeguarding biodiversity

General Motors (GM) manages water locally, with each facility setting its annual improvement targets in line with the area’s water stress level. 

The company has achieved 100% of its goal to divert more than 90% of total operational waste from landfill sites, incinerators, and energy recovery facilities by 2025.

Bar chart showing GM's global water intensity.  The baseline in 2010 was 4.77 m3/vehicle. The 2035 goal is to reduce this to 3.1. In 2022, the figure was 4.5
Image: GM Global Water Intensity

In collaboration with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Defiance Foundry has partnered with General Motors (GM) Biodiversity program to transform its on-site sludge ponds into a habitat for native wildlife, reusing nearly 99,000 metric tonnes of sand in 2022.

How does GM’s Net-Zero Strategy Influence Operations and Employee Engagement?

GM’s Net-Zero Strategy transforms the company’s operations and fosters a profound sense of employee engagement. By integrating sustainability practices into day-to-day operations, GM empowers its workforce to contribute towards achieving Net-Zero emissions.

“Our vision is of a world with zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion.”

General Motors (GM) aims to achieve net-zero emissions across its operations and value chain by 2030. This strategy will affect day-to-day operations and employees in various ways and consists of five parts. 

  1. Energy efficiency & renewable energy
  2. Circular economy & waste reduction
  3. Water management & biodiversity conservation
  4. Employee engagement & collaboration
  5. Climate risk adaptation & financial risk management
Slide from GM engagement policy headlined 'Everybody In'
Employee Engagement Policy (Image Source: GM Sustainability)

Energy efficiency & renewable energy

  • Energy-efficient operations: General Motors (GM) will implement energy-saving measures in its facilities, which may involve changes in equipment, processes, and employee practices.
  • Renewable energy sourcing: Employees may witness a shift towards renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, to power GM’s operations.

Circular economy & waste reduction

  • Waste management: Employees will be encouraged to reduce waste and recycle materials, contributing to a circular economy approach.
  • Remanufactured parts and sustainable packaging: General Motors (GM) will focus on utilising remanufactured parts and sustainable packaging, which may impact procurement and production processes.

Water management & biodiversity conservation

  • Water conservation: General Motors (GM) will implement water-saving measures, which may require employees to adopt new practices and technologies.
  • Biodiversity initiatives: Employees may participate in projects to conserve local ecosystems and promote biodiversity.

Employee engagement & collaboration

  • Sustainability initiatives: General Motors (GM) actively involves employees in sustainability initiatives through various programs and collaborations, fostering a culture of environmental responsibility.
  • Collaborations with suppliers and customers: Employees may engage with suppliers and customers to support their net-zero goals, sharing best practices and promoting sustainable solutions.

Climate risk adaptation & financial risk management

  • Risk assessment and mitigation: Employees may be involved in assessing and addressing climate-related risks, developing plans to adapt to changing conditions, and minimise financial impacts.
  • Sustainability initiatives: GM’s engagement in sustainability initiatives, such as collaborations with Conservation International and the First Movers Coalition, may involve employees in various roles and departments.

The role of employees

Employees play a crucial role in helping General Motors (GM) achieve its net-zero goals. The company actively involves them in sustainability initiatives through various programs and collaborations.

Waste reduction and “everyone-in” approach

  • Engagement: GM has implemented an inclusive “everyone-in” approach to waste reduction, involving senior leadership, employees, and external partners across the company’s global presence.

Water security and stakeholder engagement

  • CEO Water Mandate: In 2021, GM became a signatory of the CEO Water Mandate, an initiative by the UN Global Compact, joining other esteemed business leaders in tackling critical water security challenges.

Collaborations and initiatives

  • First Movers Coalition: General Motors (GM) has joined the First Movers Coalition, encouraging companies to leverage their purchasing power to drive demand for low-carbon materials.
  • Global initiatives: General Motors (GM) actively participates in global value chain emissions reduction initiatives like Responsible Steel, Steel Zero, and the Aluminum Stewardship Initiative.

Investment in green technologies

General Motors (GM) is investing in green technologies to help achieve its net zero goals, focusing strongly on low-carbon materials, the circular economy, and sustainable supply chains.

Equity investment and supply agreements

GM has made a $650 million equity investment in Lithium Americas Corp., ensuring a supply of lithium sourced from the United States specifically for electric vehicle batteries.

A supply agreement has also been established with U.S. Steel, securing a sustainable steel solution sourced from the United States, resulting in a remarkable 75 per cent reduction in emissions.

Vehicle design, remanufacturing, and sustainable packaging

GM Motors is dedicated to improving circularity throughout the entire lifecycle of its vehicles, starting from material selection and vehicle design to recycling, remanufacturing, and reuse.

With over 750,000 units of remanufactured parts sold (totalling 9 million units since 2013), GM showcases its commitment to sustainability in the automotive industry.

By 2030, GM aims to achieve 100 per cent returnable, viably recyclable, reusable, or compostable packaging, further emphasising its dedication to sustainable practices. 

Net-zero roadmap: quantifying GM’s carbon footprint and progress

General Motors (GM) utilises a combination of independent third-party verification, water risk assessment, collaboration with research institutions, participation in global initiatives, and investments in sustainable solutions to assess its carbon footprint and progress towards achieving net-zero emissions.

Independent third-party verification

GM has engaged Stantec Consulting Ltd. to verify specific greenhouse gas (GHG) and sustainability data assertions concerning their Global Facilities.

Water risk assessment

GM employs the Aqueduct tools provided by the World Resources Institute to identify water-related risks, such as floods and droughts. This information enables GM to make location-specific decisions regarding conservation measures and alternative water supplies.

Collaboration with research institutions

GM collaborates with esteemed universities and institutions like the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) to enhance safety and sustainability in transportation.

Participation in global initiatives

GM participates in various initiatives, including the First Movers Coalition, the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR), Responsible Steel, Steel Zero, and the Aluminum Stewardship Initiative. These collaborations aim to promote sustainability within GM’s supply chain and operations

GM sustainability priority wheel
GPSC Priority Wheel (Image Source: GM Sustainability)

Challenges in achieving net-zero emissions

  • Technological barriers: Developing and implementing new technologies, such as electric vehicles and renewable energy sources, can be complex and costly.
  • Supply chain emissions: Reducing Scope 3 emissions requires collaboration with suppliers and customers, which can be challenging to coordinate and manage.
  • Regulatory and policy changes: Government policies and regulations can influence GM’s approach to achieving net-zero goals, requiring the company to adapt its strategies accordingly.
  • Financial risks: Climate-related financial risks, such as acute and chronic physical risks, can impact GM’s operations and investments in sustainable solutions.

Managing climate-related financial risks

General Motors (GM) is actively managing climate-related financial risks through various strategies, including assessing acute and chronic physical risks, developing risk mitigation plans, and engaging in sustainability initiatives.

Assessing acute and chronic physical risks

  • Acute physical risks: GM identifies risks associated with severe weather events on their operations and infrastructure, such as disruptions in production, logistics, and working conditions.
  • Chronic physical risks: GM includes climate change considerations in risk assessments for their facilities on a case-by-case basis, such as developing a risk mitigation plan for their Mexico production.

Developing risk mitigation plans

GM has a property loss prevention program to protect their strategic manufacturing sites against risks. They conduct annual third-party assessments on property loss control for all strategic sites and routinely update category contingency product sourcing plans to respond to climatic events and their impact on raw materials and logistics.

Engaging in sustainability initiatives

  • Collaborations: GM works with organizations like Conservation International and the First Movers Coalition on projects related to circular economy and water management.
  • Transition risks: To address risks such as carbon pricing, markets, and technology, GM is reducing energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate potential costs.

Awards and recognition for sustainability efforts

General Motors (GM) has received numerous awards and recognition for its commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility. Some notable achievements include:

  • ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence Award: GM has received this award for the past 11 years.
  • Sustainability Leadership Award: GM won this award from the Business Intelligence Group in August 2022.
  • Carbon Neutral Outstanding Practice Award: GM China’s energy treasure hunt program won this award at the International Green Zero-Carbon Festival in Beijing in August 2022.
  • Michigan Battle of the Buildings: GM’s Flint Truck Assembly plant was awarded the title in the Manufacturing/Industrial category in 2022.
  • RE100 Changemaker Award: GM was shortlisted for this award in 2022.
  • EPA Green Power list: GM ranked #18 in this list in 2022.
  • World’s Most Ethical Companies®: In 2023, for the fourth year in a row, GM was the only original equipment manufacturer automaker recognized by Ethisphere.
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Author

Rob Boyle
Rob built Emission Index to collect and share data, trends and opportunities to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and expedite the energy transition.

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