GE Sustainability Report: Water Use Down 18%
General Electric’s total water use fell 18.3 percent from 9.1 billion gallons in 2011 to 7.43 billion in 2012, according to an EL PRO analysis of the company’s 2012 and 2011 sustainable growth reports.
From 2006 to 2012 water use fell 46 percent, far exceeding the company’s target of a 25 percent reduction by 2015. Over the six year period, once-through cooling water fell from 8.9 billion to 3.92 billion.
Last year GE implemented water-related “Kaizen Blitz activities,” or rapid improvement workshops, that it says helped reduce freshwater use. Beyond this, the report did not offer an explanation as to how the company found the significant water savings.
GE’s annual sustainability report package comprises several documents but is surprisingly low on detail. Readers are directed first to the web-based “Our Global Impact” report, which provides narrative on a few of the company’s initiatives. A link takes readers to the company’s Sustainable Growth Report, which provides metrics for greenhouse gases, energy, water, waste and so on. But for most of the measures, GE only provides data for 2012 and for its baseline (usually 2004 or 2006). It is therefore difficult for stakeholders to gauge the company’s recent progress, unless they download the 2011 report and compare the two side-by-side.
Despite the plethora of documents (the package also includes GE’s annual report and its HealthyMagination report), there’s also very little explanation of how GE achieved any of its environmental results.
GE says the release updates metrics for 2010 and 2011 to reflect information that has become available since the last published report. Each year it adjusts its baseline inventories to account for divestments and acquisitions.
The company has declared the report at GRI Application Level A.
Greenhouse gases and energy
EL PRO analysis shows that the company’s operational GHG intensity fell 4.4 percent last year, from 34.6 metric tons per million dollars of revenue in 2011 to 33.09 in 2012.
The company reports a total drop of 32 percent from 57.8 metric tons per million dollars in 2004. Over the same time frame, absolute operational emissions fell from 7.15 million to 4.87 million metric tons. The company has already exceeded its target of cutting its absolute GHG emissions by 25 percent by 2015, against the 2004 baseline.
We found that GE’s operational energy intensity fell 0.6 percent from 327 MMBtu per million dolllars of revenue in 2011 to 325 in 2012. The metric fell 32 percent in eight years, from 481 MMBtu per million dollars of revenue in 2004, as the company strives for a target of a 50 percent improvement by 2015.
Over the 2004-2012 period, absolute operational energy use fell from 59.5 million to 48 million MMBtu.
The company says that in 2012 it identified $7 million in savings from four “energy treasure hunts,” but didn’t say what the hunts found or what changes they recommended.
We found that GE’s hazardous waste generation rose 7 percent from 34,100 in 2011 to 36,500 in 2012, while non-hazardous waste rose 11.8 percent from 202,000 to 226,000. The company did not say why these metrics rose.
Releases and exceedances
On-site releases counted as part of the toxic release inventory fell from 200,000 pounds in 2010 to 189,000 in 2011. (TRI data always lags by a year, GE notes, because of filing requirements mandated by law.)
In 2012 air exceedances were up 80.9 percent to 38, from 21 in 2011. Water exceedances were up 2.9 percent to 69, from 67 in 2011. Again, the report did not offer an explanation. The company is aiming to cut wastewater, air exceedances and spills by 30 percent, though the report’s progress chart does not give a baseline or target year for this reduction.
Last year the company paid $145,000 in penalties, up from $44,000 the year before.
The company says it is on track towards its goal of investing $10 billion in Ecomagination technologies – products and services with significant environmental advantages – between 2010 and 2015. R&D investments totaled over $5 billion between 2010 and 2012, with $1.4 billion in 2012, and in that year Ecomagination revenues were $25 billion. The company met a 2015 goal, set in 2010, of growing Ecomagination revenues at twice the rate of total company revenue
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