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GE Sustainability Report: Water Use Down 18%

GE TRI water wasteGeneral 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.

Report overview

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.

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