GM IPO, Chevy Volt named Car of the Year, and a major sustainability investment cap big week for General Motors.
On the same day that General Motors (NYSE: GM) returned to the stock exchange with a much-ballyhooed IPO, and just two days after the Chevy Volt was named the 2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year, company officials announced that Chevrolet, a GM brand, is making a $40 million investment in clean energy and community sustainability projects with the goal of reducing 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, a figure equivalent to the co2 emissions of all Chevy vehicles sold in 2011.
"This is a different kind of program than anybody has ever done in the past," said Mike Robinson, Vice President for Environment, Energy and Safety Policy for General Motors on a phone call with Earth & Industry.
Working with non-profit stakeholders to determine how and where the money should be spent, the community-based investments will be spread across three categories: energy savings, renewable energy and natural resource conservation.
While no particular projects are on the books yet, the kinds of investments Chevrolet is planning to make might include providing energy efficient technology to schools such as smart energy sensors and boiler upgrades; supporting wind farms and solar projects that deliver renewable energy to the communities where they work; capturing methane gas from community landfills or contributing to forestry projects throughout America.
“Local, community based investments like these not only create green jobs, save money and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, they represent real solutions to global warming," said Ruben Aronin, Director of Communications for Global Green USA.
GM's Robinson emphasized that the process of determining the best investments would be an iterative one involving stakeholders from non-profit organizations and academic institutions alike. While there is no timeline, per se, Robinson suggested the investments might come over a span of three to five years, saying, "We won't shoot the whole $40 million at one time."
Chevrolet will be using two tracks to determine the most effective investments: via suggestions submitted on the Chevy website and via projects curated by the non-profit organizations including Clean Air-Cool Planet, a New Hampshire-based organization that works exclusively on climate change and helping corporations manage climate risk.
"Right from the start Chevy engaged non-profit stakeholders," said Bob Sheppard, vice president of corporate programs at Clean Air-Cool Planet, "but I had no idea this would lead to something this big."
Other organizations helping define project criteria and the program’s investment portfolio include the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, The Climate Group, The Climate Action Reserve, The Pew Center on Global Climate Change and The Center for Environmental Policy at Bard College.
"We're proud of our fuel economy investments and internally focused environmental initiatives, but this goes way beyond that. Beyond just the cars people drive and what we do as a manufacturer," GM's Robinson said.
Asked whether the investments would be replacing any ongoing GM clean energy or climate projects Robinson said, "this is not an attempt to supplant anything or compensate for anything else. This is about doing the right thing."