The Change Advantage

The Change Advantage

GE recognizes the inevitability of change and seeks out the opportunities that change offers.

The leadership fundamental in Immelt's thinking lies in recognizing the inevitability of change and the opportunities it presents, says Jonathan Lash, president of Washington's World Resources Institute (WRI) and co-presenter at Immelt's Ecomagination announcement. (Prior to WRI, which he describes as a global environmental think tank, Lash's career included serving as co-chair of the President's Council on Sustainable Development from 1993-1999.)

Lash says GE sought WRI's help in setting up Ecomagination's study of emissions measurement and assessment. "From the beginning, GE's attitude was to treat the emissions issues as a strategic business opportunity not a business risk to manage. They've concluded that tomorrow's global markets will be defined by emission control, energy efficiency and water scarcity." An influencing factor, Lash says, is that half of GE's markets are outside the U.S., where environmental issues have traditionally been more sharply defined by governments. "Immelt's notion about where the growth will be is a very global notion. GE's strategy on Ecomagination is not just about the U.S. It's about where the world will be."

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Immelt says government's role is in setting long-term environmental standards and creating market types of incentives as it did with sulfur dioxide and other emissions. "The third area where the government can help is in fostering innovation in technology. For example the government is helping to fund new technology in coal gasification. It can be a good first step."
GE Infrastructure's energy unit installed more than 975 wind turbines in 2003 and 611 in 2004. Power from offshore wind farms is forecast to nearly double in 2008.
Lash's advice to manufacturers: "Seriously accept and evaluate the questions of greenhouse gas, emission control and global warming and get ready to participate in the economic and political decision-making processes." He notes that those who are opposed to environmental considerations lose representation in the regulatory process. Adds Immelt: "From a business standpoint, I admire CEOs that accept the fact that there are going to be higher [environmental] standards in the future and [who] use technology as a lever to meet the challenge."

For non-governmental organizations, Immelt calls for a win/win dialogue. The win part is important for Immelt: "We are launching Ecomagination not because it is trendy or moral, but because it will accelerate our growth and make us more competitive."

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