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What's ahead? The opportunity to making positive and meaningful change in our world. But we can’t do it alone. Here are ways you can help us increase our impact.

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Operations At-A-Glance

Operational Impact

Optimizing our energy, emissions, carbon and water footprints in vehicle manufacturing processes

  • Increased number of landfill-free sites from 122 to 131, while reducing total waste from facilities by 3 percent year-over-year.
  • Decreased manufacturing energy intensity by 5 percent in 2015 vs. 2014, and carbon intensity by 8 percent; water intensity reduction was flat 2015 vs. 2014, but 10 percent intensity reduction since 2010 is ahead of targets.
  • Increased renewable energy use to 106.57 megawatts and announced two purchase agreements for wind power in Mexico and Texas.
  • Invested approximately $23 million on energy, including solar and renewable projects, carbon and water efficiency projects.
  • Work toward our aspirational goal of zero-waste manufacturing by using an integrated, enterprise approach to sustainable material management.
  • Improve energy integration into GM’s global manufacturing system and business plan.
  • Pursue a renewable energy and energy resiliency strategy as an integral component of our global operations.
  • Work with external partners to drive improvements in renewable energy infrastructure and policy.
  • Drive toward a net-zero carbon footprint through global operations, product and supply chain.
  • Prioritizing funding for investments in energy, carbon and water efficiency with strategic needs in other areas of the business.
  • Bridging gaps in materials management flow to drive circular economy initiatives.
  • Identifying infrastructure needs to facilitate new business opportunities that support zero-waste progress.
  • Bringing renewable energy to scale at our company and across industry.
  • Strengthening our business and NGO partnerships to more effectively manage financial and business risks associated with these opportunities.

Approach

GM is committed to manufacturing vehicles with minimal use of
natural resources and impact on the environment.

With GM Environmental Principles as a foundation, our manufacturing facilities have been working for decades to optimize their environmental footprint. The motivation is simple: sound resource management helps drive manufacturing excellence significant cost savings, and reduces various risks, all of which helps us offer customers better vehicles at more affordable prices. Today, GM is proud to be an industrial leader in energy, emissions, water and waste reduction.

We also are proud of the progress we have made against our 2020 manufacturing commitments, having achieved four out of nine commitments up to seven years in advance. Where we achieve goals earlier than anticipated, we are using the opportunity to identify even more aggressive and impactful targets. In the area of waste, for example, we’ve not only set new commitments, but also set an aspirational goal to become the first automotive company to achieve zero-waste manufacturing.

We measure and manage resource use at all our manufacturing locations, as well as our engineering centers, parts distribution centers and proving ground sites around the world. These facilities vary in function, size and surrounding natural environments that give rise to concerns such as water scarcity or air quality. Our strategy across these facilities, however, has common attributes.

Holistic

We approach resource conservation from a systems perspective in order to develop optimal strategies. Our annual waste reduction efforts, for example, also eliminate an average of 8.9 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions, which is more than our Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions. Likewise, water and energy use are often linked inextricably, as water can be used to produce energy, and energy is needed to treat and transport water.

Innovative

We use as much creativity and out-of-the-box thinking in our conservation efforts as we do in innovating new vehicle technologies. In fact, manufacturing process and product development often cross each other in the quest for resource efficiency. At our Flint Assembly and several other locations, for example, we recycle foam packaging material into vehicle parts.

Collaborative

Our ability to realize measurable, global progress reflects a manufacturing culture steeped in the sharing of best practices, particularly behavior. Plants document and share energy, emissions, water and waste best practices on a regular basis, and ultimately communicate them to other plants around the world to create global impact. Some of these same practices are shared both internally, to improve the efficiency and impact of our own manufacturing processes, and externally. We often collaborate with other businesses and organizations to address tough challenges and engage local communities and schools on environmental stewardship.

Incentivized

We link the annual environmental performance of our facilities and our 2020 manufacturing commitments to the compensation of a cross-section of global manufacturing employees and plant-level management. In addition, employees in the U.S. who offer energy, waste and water conservation ideas that are implemented are eligible to receive a portion of the savings up to US$20,000.

Sharing Best Practices

We share successes beyond our own walls and often advocate for implementation of sound environmental practices at other industrial companies. An important part of our landfill-free and energy programs is to mentor other companies, in part to create scale for recycling infrastructure and help other companies reduce their carbon footprint.

Luton production Vauxhall assembly line

Energy Use & Emissions

Our facilities are working toward a 20 percent reduction in energy and
carbon intensity by 2020 against a 2010 baseline.

Since our 2010 baseline year, the company has realized energy intensity improvements of 14 percent, while carbon emissions intensity has decreased by 15 percent.

Learn more about how
GM is reducing its environmental impact at generalmotors.green

Beyond our own manufacturing commitments, we are leaders in a number of external energy management programs. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized GM as an ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence in Energy Management for four years running. For the third year in a row, EPA also presented us with the Climate Communications award for our commitment to educating employees, customers and other stakeholders about the importance of energy efficiency and the impacts on climate change.

In addition, GM has the most plants of any corporate participant in the world that have achieved the EPA ENERGY STAR® Challenge for Industry. We have 130 of our major worldwide manufacturing facilities in the challenge to reduce energy intensity by at least 10 percent within five years. To date, 73 have achieved the Challenge at least once, with many of those facilities recognized multiple times. Collectively, these manufacturing sites cut energy intensity by an average of 24 percent, avoided $237 million in energy costs and reduced CO2 emissions by 1.8 million metric tons, equivalent to the emissions of 378,947 passenger vehicles.

We also continue to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy Better Buildings, Better Plants program. This commitment calls for us to reduce energy costs, per unit of production, at 31 of our U.S. facilities. The result is an anticipated 25 percent or greater combined reduction in energy use at these plants by 2018.

GM broke ground on new solar arrays at sites in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and Rochester, New York. GM now leads the automotive industry in solar energy use in the U.S.

Renewable Energy

Renewable sources make up a significant part of our
manufacturing energy strategy.

Our continued investment enables us to grow our business while decreasing our carbon footprint and minimizing the risks associated with energy-related volatility. GM’s renewable portfolio includes solar, landfill gas, hydro and waste-to-energy, totaling 106.57 megawatts (MW) today as we work toward a goal of 125 MW by 2020. Investments in renewable energy to date have yielded nearly $80 million in savings.

We continue to invest in solar power, with more installations in the U.S. than any other automaker and the second-highest percentage of solar use among all commercial users, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. With the addition of 2 MW in early 2016, GM will house 48 MW of solar power at 22 facilities around the world. In 2015, we increased renewable energy use by more than 1.4 MW to reach just over 106 MW globally, primarily from the addition of solar power projects in Kentucky, New York, Indiana and Michigan.

Our Baltimore Operations complex in White Marsh, Maryland, where electric motors for the Chevrolet Spark EV are manufactured, went greener in 2015 with the addition of a 580 kilowatt (KW) rooftop solar array. This, combined with its existing 1.23 MW solar rooftop array, means 6 percent of the facility’s electricity now comes from renewables. The building received Silver LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council due to such upgrades, in addition to installing light-emitting diode, or LED, exterior lighting and using compact fluorescent lighting in production areas.

Also during 2015, we implemented our first renewable energy project in Canada, creating a micro-hydro energy-generating system at our St. Catharines Engine Plant in Ontario. The system saves 1.3 MW of energy by using water from the adjacent St. Lawrence Seaway, requiring less electricity to run pumps and fans by providing cooling water to maintain the appropriate temperature of process equipment in the plant. During peak periods, gravity-fed, cool water can save 2,000 KW of electricity. This amounts to 8,600 MW of electricity savings annually and avoids 800 tons of CO2 emissions.

In a demonstration of how far we push innovation in renewable energy use, five used Chevrolet Volt batteries are storing and contributing power to our new Enterprise Data Center at the Milford Proving Ground in Michigan. A 74 KW solar array and two 2 KW wind turbines, along with the Volt batteries, work in parallel to generate enough power to provide all the energy needs to the Center’s administration building. Together, these renewable sources generate approximately 100 megawatt-hours (MWh) of energy annually, roughly equivalent to the energy used by 12 average households. This reuse of batteries represents our first real-world commercial application of energy storage, as well as a circular economy approach for a key automotive component, demonstrating how we can reduce waste while delivering economic benefits on an industrial scale. The reuse of Volt batteries also helped this facility attain LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2015.

Our Fort Wayne, Indiana, assembly plant ranked fifth among EPA’s top 30 generators of onsite green power in 2015. The facility is 30 percent powered by methane gas captured from decomposing trash in a nearby landfill, generating 53 million kilowatt-hours (KWh) of green power, equivalent to the electricity use of more than 4,400 American homes annually. This marks the 13th year that Fort Wayne has used landfill gas for energy. The facility also finished construction on a 14.4 KW solar array in 2015. These renewable energy commitments put GM in EPA’s Green Power Leadership Club in the category of Onsite Generation.

In 2016, our renewable commitments will expand, once again, as we move into wind power generation for the first time. In the last quarter of 2016, wind energy will start helping power three GM Mexico facilities through a power purchase agreement with Enel Green Power, which operates a massive wind farm in Palo Alto, Mexico. Approximately 75 percent of the energy coming from the wind turbines will power most of GM’s 104-acre Toluca Complex, making it the company’s largest user of renewable energy. The remaining capacity will help power the Silao, San Luis Potosí and Ramos Arizpe manufacturing complexes. The use of renewable energy is helping these facilities avoid nearly 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

By the end of 2016, wind power also will be helping provide for 55 percent of our Arlington, Texas, assembly plant’s electricity demand, or the equivalent to building up to 125,000 trucks per year with clean energy. The 115 million KWh of renewable energy will help us avoid about $2.8 million in energy costs annually and more than 1 million metric tons of CO2 over the life of the 14-year wind-power agreement.

Beyond investing in renewable energy, GM is a leader in advocating for the industrial use of renewable energy sources. We are a founding member of the Business Renewables Center (BRC) (http://www.businessrenewables.org), a collaborative platform launched in early 2015 by the Rocky Mountain Institute to accelerate corporate renewable energy procurement. We sit on the advisory board and provide input to support a BRC goal of doubling U.S. capacity of wind and solar by 2025. Due in part to our influence on industry peers, BRC has expanded to nearly 60 members. GM is also a founding signatory to the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles (Principles) (http://www.buyersprinciples.org), a guiding framework for BRC’s efforts, as the Principles help the energy market understand how they can make renewable energy investments easier for companies like GM.

Our facility in Joinville, Brazil, engaged its employees to properly sort various waste streams.

Waste

The automotive industry is a material resource–intensive industry, which makes waste minimization an important mission for us.

Responsible management of the materials used in our products and waste created by our manufacturing processes impacts our business strategy and the communities in which we operate. Thinking of waste as just a “resource out of place” is in our DNA.

At year-end 2015, 90 of our manufacturing operations – or 53 percent – and 41 nonmanufacturing operations were landfill-free. New landfill-free sites in 2015 include: two assembly plants and a stamping facility in the U.K.; Russelsheim Tool & Die in Germany; two engine plants, a warehouse and technical center at GM’s Toluca Complex in Mexico; Uzbekistan Engine; a Chevrolet sales office in India; an IT Innovation center building in Georgia; a Howell spare parts operation in Michigan; and customer care and aftersales facilities in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Willow Run, Michigan; Rancho Cucamonga, California; and Woodstock, Ontario and Langley, British Columbia, both in Canada.

With the additions of Luton Assembly and Ellesmere Port Assembly, all 18 Opel/Vauxhall manufacturing plants in Europe are now landfill-free. The addition of the Toluca operations means that all of GM Mexico assembly, powertrain and stamping plants are landfill-free, as well.

At our landfill-free manufacturing operations, approximately 89 percent of waste materials are reused or recycled and approximately 9 percent are converted to energy at waste-to-energy facilities. Including construction, demolition and remediation wastes, we estimate that we reused, recycled or composted over 2 million metric tons of waste materials at our global manufacturing operations, converted approximately 144,000 metric tons of waste materials to energy at waste-to-energy facilities and avoided 8.9 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions during 2015.

Our initiatives in this area of waste management have resulted in generating as much as $1 billion in byproduct recycling and reuse revenue in recent years. As we continue to increase our manufacturing efficiencies toward 100 percent, our scrap volumes are decreasing and an increased amount of our materials are consumed within our processes, thereby reducing our scrap revenues and reducing the amount of resources consumed on a per unit basis, which is in direct correlation with our very aggressive 2020 total waste reduction goal.

A common and consistent definition for “landfill-free” has been an important part of the success of our waste reduction program. According to the Zero Waste International Alliance, organizations that achieve more than 90 percent of diversion of waste from landfills and incinerators are considered acceptable in achieving zero waste. Our definition goes even further with the following requirements:

  • All waste generated from ongoing, day-to-day operations, including episodic/periodic events such as pit cleanouts.
  • Byproducts dispositioned by any method except placement in a landfill.
  • Byproduct materials sent to an off-site recycling or processing center and subsequently landfilled must not exceed 1 percent, by weight, of the facility’s total annual waste production. Ash generated from waste-to-energy recovery systems is exempt.

Tailoring Waste Reduction Efforts to Local Needs

The waste reduction strategy of GM plants abroad requires a customized approach, as waste issues and risks vary from country to country depending on waste management infrastructure. For example, in Argentina, we focused our 2015 efforts on the reduction of scrap metal and its transport outside our plant. This year, we reduced the number of freight trips by 87 percent with the use of new compacting machines, significantly reducing our carbon footprint. In Brazil, scrap metal is also an issue. Our Gravataí facility worked on optimizing usage of the sheet metal coils from 95 to 98 percent in 2015, saving resources and reducing the generation of scrap metal by 7 tons per year.

In India, at our Talegaon plant, we concentrated on implementing the waste reuse concept around our facilities’ waste cardboard and wood. In 2015, we increased the reuse of both materials to 53 and 47 percent, respectively, a 10 percent increase over our 2014 target.

Collaborative Waste Partnerships

The sharing of best practices and collaborating to innovate new reuse and recycle methods – both internally and externally – have been a mainstay of our waste reduction efforts since day one. In doing so we are not only reducing more waste, but gaining insights about closed-loop manufacturing and our place in a circular economy.

In 2015, we helped establish the Reuse Opportunity Collaboratory Detroit (ROC Detroit), along with the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development and a diverse group of companies, academic institutions, nonprofits and government agencies. All have a strong common interest in creating environmental, beneficial societal and economic opportunities from Detroit’s underutilized materials. As a result, we have connected local companies with other people who can give their scrap a second life, from artists to recyclers and even other corporations who can repurpose those waste streams.

GM also co-championed the U.S. Materials Marketplace, a U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development initiative that puts company byproducts into a database to enable better reuse and collaboration. Read more about this initiative here.

In Brazil, a wastewater treatment facility sits near Joinville Engine's filtering gardens.

Water

Water scarcity is a complex global issue that requires the attention of major industrial companies throughout the world.

Though we identify only eight facilities to be in water-stressed areas, our intent is to understand the level of risk associated with water stress and scarcity in each of these areas and to be a leader in helping to shape solutions. In addition, we are committed to responsible water management across our operations and a 15 percent reduction in water intensity, based on a 2010 baseline, by 2020. Though our water intensity remained steady from 2014 to 2015, we have realized nearly a 10 percent decrease against our 2010 baseline year.

We use water stress tools like the Global Water tool from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Aqueduct tool from the World Resources Institute and local site analysis to quantify the level of water stress at each of our major manufacturing sites. We also have used a third party to update a life cycle analysis of water use on a country-to-country basis down to the sixth tier in our supply chain to help prioritize our water stewardship efforts in the future.

We recognize water is a local issue. This is why our water management policy starts at the facility level, where conservation and stewardship strategies can be aligned with local resources and regulations. When plants are located in water-stressed areas, special consideration is given to water treatment technologies. Minimizing water use and withdrawals allows the plant to minimize the stress it is placing on local water sources, which in turn helps lessen the risk that, in times of drought, local water sources may be depleted beyond carrying capacity.

One example of a successful water treatment and reuse initiative in 2015 took place at our operations in Ecuador. The plant’s water treatment facility completes the water treatment process by means of ultrafiltration through reverse osmosis. This equipment allows us to reduce and eventually eliminate water discharge into the municipal sewage network, by reusing the water used in the plant’s industrial processes.

Our corporate water stewardship strategy is intended to build on such local water conservation efforts and help us maximize the full potential value of responsible water management for our company and communities. GM’s commitment to water management is also reflected in our transparency and disclosure efforts through CDP’s water program, which we joined in 2014 to improve engagement of our supply chain in water use globally.

Transforming Automotive Manufacturing

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