With a manufacturing history spanning more than 100 years, GE pays close attention to global trends that will affect the environment, raw materials, operations and markets in years to come. As the world’s population is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, and a global middle class is projected to double in the next 20 years, demand is increasing for a wide range of goods and services. These demographic shifts are increasing pressure on our environment, as readily available sources of energy, clean water and other resources are strained, greenhouse gas emissions increase, and ecosystems deteriorate. Due to the increasing business risk posed by these forces, GE takes seriously our responsibility to improve our environmental performance and support our customers’ sustainability efforts—serving as responsible stewards while growing our business.
Increasing resource scarcity, ongoing climate change and declining water availability are challenges to global growth and the ability of 9 billion people not just to live, but to live well. And importantly, the countries most likely to be affected by many of these global challenges are often those least able to cope with their impacts.
Climate change contributes to higher and more variable global temperatures, lower agricultural yields, more extreme weather events, and severe loss of the vital ecosystem services on which our society relies. GE understands that it is a business imperative to steward our resources responsibly, set meaningful targets to reduce emissions, and develop resilient infrastructure that can withstand a changing climate.
As demand for energy continues to rise, GE is doing our part to reduce our energy consumption and deliver clean energy solutions that do not contribute to climate change. We are pursuing ongoing efforts to track and improve our impacts, from our supply chain to owned operations and products in use. We also offer a full array of advanced power generation and energy delivery technologies that will drive a cleaner, more productive world. GE’s ecomagination is core to our business strategy of increasing productivity in a resource-constrained world.
Resource scarcity and declining water availability are challenges to global growth and the world’s ability to live and thrive. At GE, we know these trends will affect our businesses and our partners. The need for businesses to implement principles of radical resource productivity, substitute materials, and closed-loop product cycles is increasingly important.
GE’s products and methods of production depend on the resources available, whether it be energy to power our facilities, water to cool our equipment, or the rare metals used to strengthen many of our product components. We manage concerns about limited resources in several specific ways, including diversifying and stabilizing our supply chain through the use of multiple sources and long-term agreements, improving material utilization and reducing the generation of manufacturing waste, and developing alternative materials and technologies. We discuss several of these efforts in more detail in the following sections, from water scarcity and energy consumption to the management of other natural resources.
The Energy-Water-Food Nexus
Food, water and energy resources are fundamental to humans’ flourishing, and are linked to one another. Agriculture and power generation utilize a majority of the water used by the world’s population, while energy is a critical input to the production and transportation of food and water. As the global population continues its upward trajectory and the middle class its growth trend, strains on these resources will become more severe.
In this context, GE understands that managing our water and energy consumption is critical to maintaining leadership in the business world. Understanding the true value and costs of these commodities, apart from their market prices, will ensure that GE effectively stewards the scarce resources entrusted to us. Moreover, GE is part of the solution. As discussed in the following sections, we are innovating and collaborating to find new ways to maximize our customers’ energy efficiency and resource productivity.
Challenges and Solutions
All companies must consider their business goals, which drive future growth and deliver shareholder value, in the context of their environmental commitments. Sustainability leaders see this relationship as complementary, that environmental commitments drive business opportunities through innovations that meet customers’ needs. The challenges presented by resource limitations and climate change create opportunities to develop new systems with resource-efficient materials and to recover more resources from waste products. All of these trends have a direct effect on GE.
GE has a critical role to play in providing products and services that meet society’s resource challenges. Our strengths in engineering and technology have never been more important than they are now, and we have significant opportunities to help the world meet its challenges while we continue to find ways to reduce our own impacts.