'Ecomagination' at Work: GE's Sustainability Initiative|Business Ethics|Case Study|Case Studies

'Ecomagination' at Work: GE's Sustainability Initiative

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Case Details:

Case Code : BECG068
Case Length : 19 Pages
Period : 2005-2006
Organization : General Electric Company
Pub Date : 2006
Teaching Note : Available
Countries : The US
Industry : Diversified

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Past Controversies

In all its years of existence, GE had not been known as a particularly environment-friendly company. In fact, as a large company with interests in several industrial outfits, it had for long been one of the biggest corporate polluters in the US. While the company had built up a strong reputation for delivering outstanding returns to shareholders, it had lagged behind on the social responsibility front...

Remedial Attempts

Although GE had traditionally been a company that gave more importance to profitability than to social responsibility, the Business Ethics in the early 2000s demanded that companies look beyond financial objectives.

This was also the time when the Kyoto Protocol was a much discussed subject, and environmental concerns were increasingly being raised at global forums like the G8 and WTO meetings. Besides, consumers and investors had become more environmentally conscious than before, which made it all the more important for companies to consider environmental interests in all their operations...

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From Imagination to Ecomagination

GE announced the Ecomagination project in May 2005. The project's name was a play on GE's corporate slogan 'Imagination at Work'. Announcing the launch, Immelt said that business was "no longer a zero-sum game - things that are good for the environment are also good for business."He added that GE was embarking on this initiative "not because it is trendy or moral, but because it will accelerate [economic] growth."...


Although the results of the first year prompted GE's detractors to concede that Ecomagination was not a publicity exercise to clean up GE's image, but a serious project to which the company was committed, there was still a fair amount of skepticism about its success in the long run. For instance, industry observers were interested in finding out how GE, which was one of the largest suppliers of coal-fired power plants, nuclear reactors, and jet engines, would extend the Ecomagination initiative from a few projects to a company-wide exercise...


Exhibit I: Hydrogen-Powered Vehicles
Exhibit II: GE Annual Income Statement
Exhibit III: GE'S Six Core Business Units
Exhibit IV: Some Ecomagination Products
Exhibit V (A): A Screenshot of One of GE's Print Ads
Exhibit V (B): Text Extracts from the Ecomagination Ad Campaign
Exhibit VI: 2005 Ecomagination Leadership Award Winners


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