Case Study

GE Ecomagination

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Abstract

In the early 2000s, the CEO of General Electric (GE), Jeff Immelt, recognized this emerging pattern in public policy and consumer behavior, and he spotted an opportunity to meet his customers' needs while helping to shape public policy and grow his company's bottom line. Under Immelt's leadership, GE launched an environmental business initiative called "ecomagination" in 2005 that was rooted in four commitments:

  1. To double investment in clean research and development (R&D) to $1.5 billion by 2010;
  2. To increase revenues from ecomagination products to $20 billion by 2010;
  3. To reduce the volume and intensity of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from GE's operations and improve energy efficiency its facilities by 2012;
  4. To keep the public informed about ecomagination targets, progress and results.

Along with the four commitments came a massive ecomagination advertising and branding campaign that was similar in style to GE's "imagination at work" campaign. The company rebranded existing products like wind turbines as ecomagination products, and devised a set of standards under which current and future products would be considered for inclusion in the ecomagination brand.

In his public remarks during and after the ecomagination launch, Immelt made no pretense about the fact that ecomagination was first and foremost a business growth initiative. His candor earned him praise from leaders of powerful environmental NGOs like World Resources Institute President Jonathan Lash, who announced his support of the initiative at an ecomagination launch event in Washington D.C. Other environmental groups - particularly those that had fought GE on environmental legacy issues like the company's pollution of the Hudson River - remained skeptical of GE's green claims.