GM’s Energy Stars: A Five-Pronged Approach to Advancing Energy Efficiency

Mar 28, 2016 11:15 AM ET

General Motors earned its fifth consecutive U.S. EPA ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year award for leadership in protecting the environment through superior energy efficiency. With this five-star rating, we’re reflecting on the key groups that help our energy conservation achievements shine brighter every year.

Employees: We couldn’t make significant improvements – like reducing energy by 5.6 percent per vehicle in a year – without a workforce that is engaged and committed to improving energy efficiency every day. Plants develop programs to encourage employees to conserve energy. For example, Rochester Operations implemented a “Shut It Off” program to remind employees to take action, and audits the process to provide feedback to the team. We also leveraged ENERGY STAR’s “Bring your Green to Work” campaign to create learning booths and seminars with local energy utilities to discuss energy-saving ideas for both the home and office.

Leaders: Our executive leadership sees the value in implementing energy efficiency into every piece of our business. The proof: both energy and carbon-reduction goals are integrated into GM’s business plan. Because our leadership is committed to sustainability, a budget is assigned for improving energy efficiency at our facilities, and the resulting financial savings is reinvested into future reduction projects and vehicle innovations. 

Dealers: Hundreds of dealers in our network have implemented energy reduction, renewable energy, water conservation and waste-to-landfill reduction activities into their daily operations. GM created the Green Dealer program to recognize dealers whose efforts align with our companywide commitment to reduce our environmental footprint. Although dealers typically compete for business, they’re eager to share their environmental accomplishments with peers, offering resources to other dealers evaluating the investment and return on various initiatives. The environmental upgrades these dealers make - like installing LED lighting and high-speed garage doors – lead to savings on electricity use and energy bills. They’re also benefitting by attracting customers who share their commitment to the environment.

Suppliers: We use the EPA SmartWay® program to redesign shipping routes with our logistic suppliers. Through mode changes, optimizing drop-off locations and altering delivery frequency, we, along with our suppliers, avoided 116,000 tons of carbon emissions in 2015. That’s equivalent to the carbon emissions from 13 million gallons of gasoline burned. We also work with CDP to report our energy, carbon and water use, and ask our suppliers to do the same. Last year, 76 percent of our suppliers responded to the CDP request, and we engaged seven suppliers in the CDP Action Exchange to help them identify energy-reduction projects using a business case database and consultants.

“It makes good business sense to pursue a greener product in every segment of the value chain,” said Al Hildreth, GM’s global energy manager. “By helping our suppliers become more efficient, we’re driving savings for our customers down the line.”

Customers: Communicating our efforts to our customers is an important part of our sustainability initiatives. Since we see the environmental and economic benefits of increasing our energy efficiency, we want to share our journey and offer best practices for broader impact.  We’ve engaged young visitors and their parents in making environmental pledges at the GM Renaissance Center in Detroit on “Take Your Child to Work Day” and hosted Twitter chats to encourage millennials to take action on climate change.

Together all of these people increase the impact of our efforts and spread awareness of how individual actions can add up to big savings.