our management approach to Operations

Topics Discussed in this Section:

We currently maintain 401 facilities, including 43 manufacturing plants around the world. No two facilities are alike. There is a great range among them in terms of size, function, processes and local environment. All GM-owned and -operated facilities have their own operating plans, but function under a common set of Environmental Principles, which provide an effective foundation for environmental stewardship and support our efforts to build the most valued automotive company.

Environmental Governance

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
  • Monitor GM’s performance according to GM’s own Environmental Performance Criteria (EPC), which are universal performance requirements designed to protect human health and the environment in accordance with the GM Environmental Principles and set baseline standards
  • Conform to other key performance indicators, such as landfill-free sites

Each GM manufacturing site has one or more environmental engineers, who are supported by a GM regional environmental team. Our Global Manufacturing 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 (e.g., linking more Global Manufacturing employees to GM’s performance against our 2020 operational commitments). Furthermore, throughout our manufacturing organization, annual compensation is based on performance to the BPD, which includes environmental metrics.

Environmental Policy

As a responsible corporate citizen, GM has a Global Environmental Policy that provides guidelines to help manage the impact of our activities, products and services on the environment. In 2018, we modernized this policy to reflect current areas of focus. The new policy establishes a globally consistent standard intended to protect the environment by establishing sound design, engineering, manufacturing and distribution practices that support compliance while minimizing negative environmental impacts.

GM’s Guiding Environmental Commitments, which are based on the core Environmental Principles established more than 25 years ago, are the foundation of this new policy. The Commitments serve as a guide for all GM employees worldwide, encouraging environmental consciousness 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.

Waste Reduction

We are committed to reducing waste and pollutants while conserving resources and recycling materials at every stage of the product life cycle.

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 & Climate Change

We believe climate change is real and are committed to the public disclosure of our GHG emissions and taking actions to reduce them.

Energy Management

We are committed to energy conservation and energy efficiency improvements throughout our global sites and operations.

Renewable Energy

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

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.

Improving Technologies

We are committed to vigorously pursuing the development and implementation of technologies for minimizing pollutant emissions from products and our operations.

Environmental Stewardship

We are committed to participating actively in educating the public regarding environmental conservation and biodiversity.

Responsible Sourcing

We are committed to responsible sourcing and working with our suppliers to develop sustainable solutions.

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.

Our Environmental Policy and Guiding Environmental Commitments 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 EPC. 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. These plant-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 its 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 objectives 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, and compliance with these requirements is an organizational imperative. Compliance issues occasionally arise, and each allegation of noncompliance is treated seriously by GM. In 2018 GM received 24 Notices of Violation (NOVs), 16 in the U.S. and eight outside the U.S. GM took actions to resolve these NOVs. GM did not pay any penalties or fines equal to or in excess of $10,000 USD.

Environmental Management System

All manufacturing facilities that GM owns and operates, and a majority of our nonmanufacturing sites around the world, have implemented an Environmental Management System (EMS). GM’s global operations either obtain certification 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. To objectively monitor conformance to the standard, GM embeds ISO 14001-certified third-party auditors who participate in a third of our manufacturing sites’ ISO 14001 corporate audits. Our Mexican manufacturing operations, as well as some of our U.S. manufacturing operations, use ISO-certified third-party auditors to conduct or 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. Our Brazil manufacturing operations transitioned, in 2017, from a third-party-certified ISO 14001 program to self-declaring conformance to the ISO 14001 Standard requirements.

GM manufacturing operations in other regions currently utilize third-party accredited registrars to certify conformance to the ISO 14001 standard. 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.

Environmental Performance

Implementation of our Environmental Principles is facilitated by EPC that apply to our global manufacturing facilities and major technology centers. We are expanding EPC application to our nonmanufacturing facilities. The EPC are internal performance requirements for the management of environmental issues at our facilities. In many cases, they also 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 EPC 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 EPC, the law applies.

GM uses a variety of Energy Star initiatives as a framework for charting our progress in building energy efficiency. Energy Star’s Building Portfolio Manager (BPM) allows us to benchmark our progress and make continuous improvements. BPM integrates with our utility bill management system, sending an automated monthly analysis of building scores to evaluate building performance.

Employee 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 and regulatory requirements for air, waste and water.

In the U.S., we have set a goal for all our facilities’ environmental professionals to become Certified Hazardous Materials Managers (CHMM®). The certification requires a relevant degree and three years of appropriate experience or 11 years of experience without a degree, and the successful completion of an Institute of Hazardous Materials Management® exam. In order to maintain certification, at least 20 hours of technical environmental training is required annually. 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 Environmental Principles, our internal EPC and industry best practices.

We strive to have the best-trained environmental professionals in the world

Operational Impact Strategy

As we work toward our aspiration of having a positive environmental impact across our value chain, we focus a tremendous amount of effort toward improving the efficiency of manufacturing processes used to produce our vehicles. Our efforts pay significant dividends: Sound resource management helps drive manufacturing excellence and significant cost savings while reducing various risks—all of which helps us offer customers better vehicles at more affordable prices.

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

  • It’s holistic, in that we approach resource conservation from a systems perspective to develop optimal strategies.
  • 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 cross functions, such as manufacturing and vehicle development, as we work to realize new resource efficiencies.
  • It’s a collaborative process that reflects a manufacturing culture steeped in the sharing of best practices, particularly behavior. We often collaborate with other businesses and organizations to address tough challenges and engage local communities and schools on environmental stewardship.
  • It’s incentivized by linking the annual environmental performance of our facilities and our 2020 operational 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.

We are formalizing our focus on circular design through the creation of our Sustainable Materials Management function. This function encompasses not only the materials that are used in our vehicles, but also how to design for less waste and find new purposes for materials that are no longer needed. We have launched a number of partnerships to advance this mission, including Do Your Part, a program that recycles plastic bottles into winter coats and vehicle parts.

We are also a founding member of NextWave, a collaboration between a group of companies and the nonprofit Lonely Whale Foundation to develop the first commercial-scale, ocean-bound-plastics supply chain. NextWave will develop a model that reduces plastic pollution at scale and ensures the resulting supply chain has the infrastructure and support to meet demand in a socially and environmentally responsible way. The group hopes to divert more than 3 million pounds of plastics from entering the ocean within five years, the equivalent of keeping 66 million water bottles from washing out to sea. GM continues to explore opportunities to use recycled, ocean-bound plastics in vehicle components and in packaging applications.

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