As we make efforts to reduce the impact of our operations across the world, it’s essential to have our employees on board. GM facilities in China have undertaken several initiatives to inspire employees to help us be more efficient, from one-off events to long-term campaigns.
For example, GM China employees participated in Earth Hour 2019 for the fifth year in a row, joining millions of people around the world in turning off non-essential lights for an hour. Employees also shared content on social media to raise awareness of the need to reduce one’s environmental footprint. Those who participated received “green” cutlery, including reusable stainless-steel straws and chopsticks.
We drove improvements throughout the year through energy treasure hunts in Shanghai, SAIC-GM’s Jinqiao North Assembly Plant and SAIC-GM-Wuling’s Liuzhou West Assembly Plant and Global Propulsion System Plant. At these events, employees searched for opportunities to save energy, reduce GHG emissions and cut costs. The hunters unearthed a total of 54 energy-saving opportunities, including intelligent management of lighting and air conditioning, optimization of equipment preheating and start-up time, repair of compressed air leaks and reasonable management of compressors. The solutions are expected to generate savings of approximately RMB 13.4 million ($2 million USD) at the three locations. In the initial stage, 39 opportunities will be implemented, saving about RMB 7.7 million ($1 million USD) within a year.
In a similar, longer-term initiative, SAIC-GM-Wuling kicked off the Energy Saving and Emission Reduction Campaign. It aims to improve energy efficiency, save money and reduce the company’s environmental impact while enabling it to continue manufacturing high-quality products. Employees are encouraged to form Practice Groups, which focus on its existing energy-saving and waste-reducing technologies; or Innovation Groups, which attempt to develop new products and technologies to further reduce energy use and emissions. Both groups can offer new ideas to challenge the status quo and improve our performance.
Several times a day, coiled steel arrives at the GM Marion Stamping Plant in Marion, Indiana, ready to be shaped into GM cars, vans, trucks and SUVs. The steel is heavy—weighing up to 40 tons per truckload—which means that there are steep fuel demands for the heavy-haul trucks that deliver it to the facility.
Recently, the Marion team decided to leverage the full weight capacity of each truck for deliveries. Moving from partial truckloads to full truckloads led to fewer deliveries over time, as well as optimal use of fuel to deliver the steel.
It was a situation ripe for application of GM’s Operational Excellence (OpEx) program, an enterprise-wide effort to adopt new processes and policies that improve our operations in areas including efficiency, quality, customer satisfaction and more. The Marion team engaged suppliers to develop a new system to deliver the same amount of steel using fewer truckloads. This required them to balance multiple variables: considering not only the weight limits of the trucks but also the capacity of freight docks and storage areas, as well as aligning shift and delivery timing and ensuring safety throughout the process.
A few simple calculations delivered significant savings. With the new delivery schedule, the Marion plant has reduced diesel fuel consumption by 75,250 gallons per year across its supplier fleet, removed 1,236 additional trucks from local roadways and saved $1.2 million in costs. Best of all, these aren’t one-off savings. By continuing efficient logistics practices, Marion will maintain reduced emissions and congestion indefinitely. Now, the plant is using the project as a template to develop other distance- and density-reduction strategies, with ideas in the pipeline such as reducing the number of trucks that return empty to the mill warehouse. With ingenuity and application of OpEx principles, they believe there’s even more room to improve.
The Marion plant has removed 1,236 additional trucks from local roadways
GM was proud to reach our manufacturing carbon intensity goal—a 20 percent reduction in metric tons of CO2e per vehicle manufactured between 2010 and 2020—three years ahead of schedule. After achieving this goal in 2017, we got to work developing an even more ambitious target. Our new goal is to reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 GHG (CO2e) emissions by 31 percent by 2030 compared to a 2010 baseline. This goal is consistent with the level of decarbonization required by the science-based target initiative methodology to limit warming to less than 2°C compared to preindustrial temperatures by 2050. Energy efficiency improvements and our RE100 pledge—a commitment to use 100 percent renewable energy in our operations—helped us reach our initial carbon goal. As we look toward 2030, we intend to build on these actions to help us reach our higher aspiration of absolute emissions reduction.
GM has pledged to meet the electricity needs at all our global operations with renewable energy by 2050. We’re about 20 percent of the way there, due in part to a series of power purchase agreements made in 2018.
See the progress that GM is making in states across the U.S. to source renewable energy for our own operations:
By sourcing energy from the Cactus Flats Wind Farm in Concho County and Los Mirasoles Wind Farm in Hidalgo County, we are meeting 100 percent of the electricity demand of 16 GM offices and facilities and more than 10,000 GM and GM subsidiary employees across Texas and the southeast U.S.
Two agreements will allow our manufacturing facilities in these states to be powered by 100-percent renewable electricity: one with the Northwest Ohio Wind Farm in Paulding County, owned by Starwood Energy Group, and another with ENEL Green Power to source energy from the HillTopper wind farm in Logan County, Illinois.
GM is among the first Michigan companies to participate in a new Consumers Energy program to source renewable energy. Through this program, the electricity used at our Flint Metal Center and Flint Engine Operations is now matched entirely with energy produced at the Cross Winds Energy Park II in Tuscola County.
Among the facilities that now run on wind energy is our Arlington, Texas Assembly Plant. For reaching this milestone, the plant earned a spot on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Top 100 List of the largest green power users. Arlington is also one of 74 GM facilities recognized by the EPA for achieving the ENERGY STAR® Challenge for Industry for reducing energy intensity by at least 10 percent within five years. GM is also recognized by the EPA as a Green Power Partner for using green power at levels that exceed benchmark requirements and updating the EPA each year on our green power use.
“Renewable energy is an important part of GM’s vision for a zero-emissions future,” says Rob Threlkeld, global manager of Renewable Energy. “The EPA’s support and recognition sends a strong message that transitioning to renewables is good for business and the environment, and helps make a greener grid and cleaner energy more accessible for everyone.”
In early 2019, GM partnered with Google, Facebook, Walmart and more than 300 other companies to launch the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA)—the largest group of corporate renewable energy buyers in the United States. By working to unlock the marketplace for organizations to buy renewable energy, REBA hopes to bring more than 60 gigawatts (GW) of new renewables online in the U.S. by 2025. The new association will function as a membership organization spanning diverse industries and business types, and whose leadership circle alone represents annual revenues of $1 trillion, millions of jobs and more than 1 percent of U.S. annual electricity consumption (48 terawatt-hours).
As an eight-time EPA ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year award winner, GM continues to demonstrate leadership in sustainability through superior operational efficiency. Since 2010, we have saved more than $230 million in energy costs while eliminating 1.8 million metric tons of carbon emissions by engaging many facilities in energy-reduction challenges.
With millions upon millions of square feet in our facilities, lighting can play a major role in these efforts. Four years ago, our Lighting Strategy Committee began to focus on lighting improvements for large production centers. Given GM’s massive scale, the committee liked the promise of energy-efficient LED lighting but wanted assurances the impact would justify the investment.
We found an ideal solution in Albeo™ LED high bay lighting fixtures and Starco tubular LED retrofits. The fixtures and tubular retrofits offered a longer life span and huge efficiency gains which allows us to save on replacements and maintenance. To date, we have installed more than 100,000 LED fixtures and tubular retrofits in over 21 GM facilities in North America and expect to convert lighting in our remaining sites to LEDs by 2020 using Energy Performance Contracting.
A Smaller Impact with Better Plants GM joined the Better Buildings, Better Plants initiative in 2008 with a pledge to reduce the energy intensity of 31 plants and facilities by 25 percent by 2019 using a 2008 baseline. Through dedicated efforts, these facilities achieved a 26 percent reduction by 2017, two years ahead of schedule.
Despite sophisticated design software that aids in the design of new GM vehicles, we still depend on clay vehicle models, which help designers more clearly visualize and refine the look of a finished product. Just as in other stages of vehicle production, we work to reduce waste where we can—which means gathering and reusing clay for multiple designs.
When building and stripping clay vehicle models, the extended design team at our Global Design Center in Warren, Michigan, carefully collects and cleans any leftover clay. Using metal detecting wands, the team meticulously removes any metal pins and processes the material into a new mixture. In one hour, six team members can completely strip one midsize vehicle model of salvageable clay, preventing potentially harmful chemicals and gases from reaching landfills. In 2017 alone, the team kept more than 13 thousand pounds of clay out of landfills.
“Clay recycling is not only good for the environment, it’s great for bottom line as well,” said Sam Vitale, director, Creative Digital & Clay Sculpting. “We’ve saved the company nearly $1 million in just three years by reusing instead of purchasing new clay.”
For materials that don’t have a clear reuse, the design team draws on its collective creativity. To celebrate Earth Day in 2018, Design Center artists repurposed waste materials into artwork for a design competition. For months, they collected discarded items such as leather, wood, high-density foam, metal, frames, plumbing parts, mesh, caster, chain and supplier samples—then organized an art competition for objects made from the scraps.
“Project Greenway,” as the competition was known, gave items second life as earrings, purses, paintings and even sculptures of robots. “Viewing the ‘Project Greenway’ art in the Design Center Gallery was inspirational—it was impressive to see how unwanted items were turned into unique pieces of art,” says Dane Parker, Vice President, Sustainable Workplaces. “These types of projects highlight the amazing creativity, capability and commitment of our GM team members.” To further benefit our communities, proceeds from the sale of the one-of-a-kind works of art were donated to each artist’s charity of choice.
World Environment Day (WED) is a UN-sponsored event designed to encourage awareness and action regarding environmental protection. Each year, GM gets involved by amplifying environmental outreach activities in our facilities or communities. GM sites share their WED plans with the global network, and employees vote on the most creative and impactful WED outreach activities aligned with the year’s theme.
In 2018, 72 manufacturing and nonmanufacturing sites in 16 countries submitted more than 100 WED activities that reflected the year’s theme: “Beat Plastic Pollution.” Winning facilities for the competition included:
Initiatives include encouraging employees to swap their personal waste bins for a potted plant
GM Global Design Operations aims to understand GM customers and align their aspirations with our future products. These aspirations include greater concern about environmental footprints and interest in the materials used in our designs. We’ve responded by embracing recycled materials and providing greater transparency about our products.
Now, we’re turning our focus inward by launching Upcycle, a grassroots startup within Global Design Operations that applies design thinking to improve the sustainability and health of our community, campus and products. Created in 2018, the group has already some gained some ground, including reducing single-use packaging and condiments at our Design Center all-people meetings and starting a program to reuse coffee grounds as garden fertilizer. Other ongoing initiatives include encouraging employees to swap their personal waste bins for a potted plant, hosting a competition to design artwork for new reusable coffee cups, and exploring the possibility of offering only compostable and recyclable packaging within the Design Center’s food services. Upcycle’s ultimate goal is to empower all employees to make informed decisions about waste disposal.
GM’s biodiversity efforts focus on reducing our environmental footprint, driving business value and savings, maximizing benefits for communities and supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goal to halt biodiversity loss. In 2018, we were proud to reach 76 wildlife habitat programs certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), leading the automotive industry with the most certified sites. We now manage more than 5,000 acres of habitat in 16 countries.
The WHC certification program provides a structure for creating, conserving and restoring wildlife habitats on corporate lands. The certification also recognizes environmental education efforts that use the habitat as a tool for teaching ecological concepts and conservation.
New programs that joined the list of WHC-certified sites include Avtovz Togliatti, Russia; SGMW Liuzhou; China and Cheongna Proving Grounds, Korea. With the addition of these operations, we are at nearly 85 percent of our goal to achieve certified habitats at all manufacturing sites by 2020.
Also as part of this year’s progress in addressing biodiversity, our CAMI Assembly Plant in Canada received the Gold Program Award, the WHC’s highest recognition for overall excellence in corporate conservation. CAMI Assembly had 13 qualifying projects ranging from management of grassland and wetland habitats to community outreach events.
Our Toledo Transmission plant received the highest award from the Ohio EPA’s Encouraging Environmental Excellence (E3) Program in 2018. GM was one of five organizations to receive the E3 Platinum Level award, which recognizes organizations with comprehensive environmental stewardship programs that go above and beyond environmental excellence in their own facility to improve social well-being of the local community and region. A few key actions contributed to our win:
By the end of 2018, 100 percent of the site’s electricity was supplied by renewable energy sources, including from a 21,000-panel rooftop solar array.
Each year, we recognize employees for their contribution to environmental stewardship on Earth Day with a gift, such as a packet of native flower seeds that support pollinators.
The facility hosts events where employees lead workshops on local water quality testing and watershed education sessions with local elementary schools.
We are active in the Green Ribbon Initiative, a regional partnership of conservation groups working together to protect the natural beauty and biological diversity of the Oak Openings region. Through this regional partnership, the facility entered into an Adopt-A-Natural Area Program agreement with The Nature Conservancy’s Kitty Todd Nature Preserve.