There are very few companies that operate at GM’s level globally: 155,000 employees working in 322 facilities, including 88 manufacturing plants in 29 countries, and affiliations with 12,358 locally owned dealerships worldwide.
Our efforts pay significant dividends: Sound environmental management helps drive manufacturing excellence and significant cost savings while reducing various operational risks—all of which helps us offer better vehicles for our customers and the environment at more affordable prices. We measure and manage natural resources use at all manufacturing locations, engineering centers, parts distribution centers and proving ground sites around the world. These facilities vary in function, geography, size and surrounding natural environments, which gives rise to varying concerns such as resource scarcity, thousands of different regulatory requirements and different levels of environmental compliance requirements. Although GM-owned and operated facilities have their own operating plans depending on their location, all function under a common Environmental Policy which provides an effective foundation for environmental stewardship and supports our efforts to build the most valued automotive company. Our operational impact strategy across facilities has common attributes:
- It’s heavily reliant on innovation, using as much creativity and out-of-the-box thinking in our conservation efforts as we do in innovating new vehicle technologies. In fact, we often work cross-functionally in developing opportunities for resource efficiency in our manufacturing operations.
- It’s a collaborative process that reflects a manufacturing culture steeped in the sharing of best practices. We often collaborate with other businesses and organizations to address tough challenges and engage local communities, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and educational institutions on environmental stewardship.
- It’s incentivized by linking the annual environmental performance of our facilities and our 2020 operational environmental 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 and water conservation or waste elimination ideas that are implemented are eligible to receive a portion of the savings up to $20,000 USD.
GM has a robust process to enhance the integration of environmental sustainability practices into daily business decisions and to:
- Comply with applicable environmental laws and regulations globally.
- Monitor GM’s performance according to GM’s own Environmental Performance Criteria (EPCs), which are universal corporate performance requirements designed to protect human health and the environment in accordance with the GM Environmental Policy.
- Conform to other key performance indicators, such as water, energy and waste intensity reduction targets; sustainability outreach initiatives; and environmental performance metrics.
Each GM manufacturing site has one or more environmental leaders, who are supported by a GM regional environmental leader and a team of subject matter experts in regional central offices. Our Global Sustainable Workplaces organization oversees and manages these teams. We also have an annual business planning process, known as Business Plan Deployment (BPD), to strengthen the management of environmental performance, which links our Global Manufacturing employees and their annual compensation to GM Sustainability Commitments. Performance on BPD metrics and goals is monitored monthly at all GM manufacturing sites. Action plans are developed as needed to ensure we keep performance on track.
As a responsible corporate citizen, GM has a Global Environmental Policy that provides guidelines to help minimize the impact of our activities, products and services on the environment. The policy establishes a globally consistent standard intended to maintain compliance and protect human health and the environment by incorporating sustainability practices into our design, engineering, manufacturing and distribution practices that support compliance while minimizing negative environmental impacts.
Our Global Environmental Policy and the Guiding Environmental Commitments set forth therein provide a framework for manufacturing and nonmanufacturing facilities and major technology centers around the world to implement global policy, consistent and complementary local policies and EPCs.
This approach helps us to strive for operational compliance across all sites at all times and to embed a philosophy of continuous improvement into each facility’s Environmental Management System (EMS). These site-specific actions play a significant role in our overall environmental compliance, ensuring that local plant policies:
- Are appropriate to the nature, scale and environmental impacts of each plant’s activities, products or services.
- Reinforce a commitment to comply with applicable laws and regulations and with other relevant environmental requirements.
- Include a commitment to continuous improvement and pollution prevention.
- Provide the framework for setting and reviewing environmental goals and targets.
- Are documented, implemented, maintained and communicated to all employees.
Statutory, regulatory and permit programs administered by various governmental agencies impose numerous environmental requirements on our facilities and products. Compliance with applicable environmental requirements is an organizational imperative. Compliance issues occasionally arise, and each allegation of noncompliance is treated seriously by GM. In 2020 GM received 16 Notices of Violation (NOVs), 12 in the U.S. and four outside the U.S. There were no penalties or fines.
GM’s Guiding Environmental Commitments are the foundation of our Global Environmental Policy. The Commitments serve as a guide for all GM employees worldwide, encouraging environmental awareness in both daily conduct and in the planning of future products and programs. They include:
Taking Care of Our Planet
We are committed to actions that restore and preserve the environment.
We are committed to participating actively in educating the public regarding environmental conservation and biodiversity.
Water Conservation and Quality
We are committed to responsibly using water while taking actions that preserve water quality and conservation across our operations, in our supply chain and in the communities in which we operate.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change
We believe climate change is real and are committed to the public disclosure of our greenhouse gas emissions and taking actions to reduce them.
We are committed to energy conservation and energy efficiency improvements throughout our global sites and operations.
We are committed to reducing waste and pollutants while conserving resources and recycling materials at every stage of the product life cycle.
We are committed to vigorously pursuing the development and implementation of technologies for minimizing pollutant emissions from products and our operations.
Obeying Environmental Regulations and Policies
We are committed to working with all government entities for the development of technically sound and financially responsible environmental laws and to complying with applicable laws and regulations.
We are committed to responsible sourcing and working with our suppliers to develop sustainable solutions.
Environmental Management System (EMS)
We are committed to a systemic management approach to minimizing and eliminating our environmental impacts around the world. We will consistently and continually assess the impact of our operations and our products on the environment and the communities in which we live and operate with a goal of continuous improvement.
We are committed to using renewable energy at our facilities and sites globally and will advocate for policies that promote renewable energy use and demand.
Environmental Management System (EMS)
All manufacturing facilities that GM owns and operates, and a majority of our nonmanufacturing sites around the world, have implemented an EMS. GM’s global manufacturing operations either obtain certification of compliance to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001 Standard from a third party or self-declare conformance to the ISO 14001 Standard requirements. GM’s EMS system combines elements of ISO 14001 and management system elements that are unique to our operations.
GM EMS specifications are designed to drive a continuous performance improvement cycle in line with legal requirements, site-specific objectives and targets, and corporate and regional policies and strategies. Overall, each of our global manufacturing operations has integrated their EMS within the GM Global Manufacturing System and Business Plan Deployment process, resulting in an EMS with attributes beyond those specified in ISO 14001. This integration ensures we achieve our environmental commitments as a normal part of our business activities.
For GM sites that self-declare conformance to ISO 14001, GM has developed a robust implementation and review process. In the U.S., our self-declared ISO 14001 system undergoes a third-party review of the program design. Our components manufacturing operations in the U.S. use ISO-certified third-party auditors to assess ISO 14001 compliance, and some other U.S. manufacturing facilities use ISO-certified third-party auditors to assist with conducting ISO 14001 internal audits. These quality checks of GM’s ISO 14001 program ensure that our self-declaration process is as robust as an ISO 14001 third-party-certified system. Considering all of GM's global operations ascribing to meet the ISO 14001 Standard, over 20% are ISO 14001 third-party certified, and the remaining global manufacturing operations are self-declaring conformance to the ISO 14001 Standard.
Our global EMS activities on a regional basis are currently either third-party certified or self-declared as conforming to ISO 14001 Standards. In 2019, GM did extensive benchmarking of industry best practices in ISO 14001 certification models and then began redesigning the U.S. program from an individually conforming program to an Enterprise conformance model. In 2020, GM aligned our North American manufacturing sites under a common ISO 14001 framework and will continue to transition our global facilities into this common framework by the end of 2021.
New manufacturing operations must develop and implement an EMS program within 24 months of the start of production or the date of acquisition. By maintaining an integrated, common EMS, we can enhance and measure environmental performance and easily share knowledge, processes and technologies that enable GM to meet our environmental goals.
Implementation of our Guiding Environmental Commitments is facilitated by GM EPCs that apply to our global facilities and major technology centers. The EPCs are internal performance requirements for the management of environmental matters at our facilities. In many cases, they supplement applicable legal requirements by setting minimum standards for environmental management and performance practices that may be more stringent than those required by law. As a result, we work to ensure that a base level of environmental performance is achieved, regardless of where a facility is located or whether a particular jurisdiction has an environmental regulatory program in place. For example, the EPCs establish a global baseline standard for all new assembly operations with regard to paint shop emissions and associated minimum technology requirements, regardless of whether the country in which the paint shop is operated has adopted specific air emissions requirements. Where laws are more stringent than our EPCs, the law supersedes.
We are expanding our tracking of environmental compliance and sustainability performance in manufacturing operations by leveraging the Manufacturing Excellence Indexes (MEI) system created by Manufacturing as an internal GM scoring tool to benchmark GM operations performance against internal facilities. The new environmental metric system, launched in 2020, correlates electronically stored information on environmental compliance performance and the impactful sustainability initiatives our facilities are involved with across the globe. Some examples of tracked performance items include waste diversion rate, wildlife habitat participation, environmental audit performance and corrective action closure. This use of real-time data provides the organization a way to measure performance, assess risk and drive continuous improvement. In addition, this system will be used annually to evaluate best-in-class performance in the areas of environment and sustainability, with top efforts awarded an “Annual Sustainability Award” presented by our manufacturing vice president and chief sustainability officer.
Employee Environmental Training
Our people are key stakeholders in our environmental stewardship and are critical to our environmental performance. We strive to have the best-trained environmental professionals in the world. Although most environmental training is specific to a facility, country or region, we continually provide strategic training and guidance to our environmental professionals to help them keep pace with evolving environmental issues and best practices that could have application worldwide. Our training addresses a variety of issues, including, but not limited to, implementation of corrective and preventive actions, effective use of safety data sheets, management of GHGs, Superfund Amendments and Reporting Act (SARA) reporting (U.S. only), Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) Standard training (U.S. only) and regulatory requirements for air quality, waste management and water quality.
Environmental professionals develop training goals through the company’s Workday portal and seek personal and professional development through internal and external conferences, webinars and lunch and learns. In the U.S., environmental professionals attend a two-day conference where speakers, both internal and external to the company, educate on a variety of topics to enrich the knowledge of our environmental professionals. In addition, environmental engineers are trained on GM compliance systems and how to effectively evaluate regulatory and company requirements. In Canada, new environmental professionals receive at least 40 hours of training initially, followed by regular refresher training. In addition, some Canadian environmental professionals receive specialized training as certified toxic substance reduction planners. Outside North America, we have developed a Global Environmental Certification and Training Program focused on GM’s Guiding Environmental Commitments, our internal EPCs and industry best practices.