General Motors has leveraged its environmental sustainability initiatives to attract new customers, generate $1 billion in new revenue streams from recycling and reuse, and reduce company risk, said GM’s Mari Kay Scott in the opening keynote speech at Environmental Leader’s conference on Wednesday.
“Sustainability is good for the environment — it’s also really good for business,” said Scott, the automaker’s executive director of global environmental compliance and sustainability.
In her keynote address, Scott said it’s important to set company-wide goals — such as GM’s 150 landfill-free sites globally by 2020 — as well as specific goals for each plant. “Set aggressive targets to get the leaders on board with the vision,” she said.
Once goals have been set and communicated to employees at all levels, start monitoring progress and taking action to improve.
“In facilities that aren’t reaching their targets, we will help with low-hanging fruits,” such as daylighting and turning off lights at lunch and breaks to improve energy efficiency, Scott said. In facilities that are close to reaching the benchmark, start looking at upgrading equipment to take energy efficiency to the next level.
“Drive competition inside the plant as well through metering,” Scott suggested. This allows employees to see if they are meeting targets — and compare their progress to other departments.
To reduce waste and increase recycling and reuse, Scott suggests a dumpster dive. Remove everything from the dumpster to determine its source as well as it if can be reused or recycled. “Sometimes you have to get your hands dirty,” she said.
It has paid off — and saved money — for GM. For example, the company turns employees’ recycled water bottles into noise-reducing fabric insulation that covers the Chevrolet Equinox engine — thus saving money on purchasing virgin materials — and turns polystyrene foam packaging into footwear.
GM’s Canadian Automotive Manufacturing Inc. assembly turns scrap wood into mulch for its wetlands and Grand Rapids Operations recycles grinding wheels as sandpaper.
Also, share best practices between facilities and suppliers. GM does this through conference calls between plants and regular communication with resource and energy managers and sustainability leads. “So when one plant becomes landfill free, another plant manager can call and say, ‘How did you achieve that?’”
And when the entire company or a single facility achieves a goal, remember to celebrate successes.