General Electric does imagination with everything. Ecomagination. Healthymagination. Whatnextimagination? I reviewed their recent Corporate Responsibility Report - responsibilitimagination (my nickname - but GE are welcome to use it - haha - for a small fee:)) in my regular slot in Ethical Corporation Magazine (click here for subscribers). You can download the full review from my website here. The real problem, of course, in reporting, for a company such as GE is, well, just how much everythingimagination can you fit into 40 pages?
Quite a lot, is the answer, especially if you back it up with a jampackedimagination website. Starting off with Responsibility 101, to ensure we are all on the same page, moving through a detailed look at Employee Survey Feedback, passing through GE's priorities, and how GE strengthens the global economy, and a range of stories giving detailed insights and case studies, and more, GE does a pretty commendable job in clear and reasonably transparent reporting in a nicely navigable website and short summary report. This report is called "Renewing Responsibilities", which is a statement about finding new ways to revive plans, partnerships and programs after the"Great Recession" , which doesn't seem to have hit GE all that hard, but with a recognition that there are now even more "complex and pressing problems" to fix in the world, GE wants to do its bit.
Here are the first few paragraphimaginations of my review:
"A report from a giant such as GE, a "diversified infrastructure, finance and media company taking on the world's toughest challenges" with over $150Bn annual revenues and 288,000 employees, raises high expectations. Sam Nunn, the Chair of GE's Public Responsibilities Committee and Board Member, confirms that "Citizenship is not a spectator sport" and that companies with global reach and impact must set priorities to increase shareholder value whilst having a positive impact on society and the environment. There appears to be no doubt that GE is serious about their framework to "make money, make it ethically and make a difference" and happily for us all, planning to do more, not least because of the tangible business benefits this delivers. GE is an icon in Sustainability Strategy and Sustainability Branding – one of the first globals to adopt the language of strategy rather than the touchy-feely do-good give-back rhetoric of most early adopters - and this pays off. Ecomagination product sales have grown faster than any other segment and now account for 28 percent of GE's industrial product portfolio, almost doubling its revenue in 5 years. Healthymagination is GE’s six-year $6Bn commitment to healthcare innovation, established in 2009 to help deliver better lower-cost health-care, tapping in to a growing global $3.5Trn market. GE's strategic choices are inspired and executed with attention to a broad range of stakeholder needs, alignment with key Millenium Goal world problems, an impressive commitment to transparency and an eye for where the profit is.
This, GE's sixth Citizenship Report, entitled "Renewing Responsibilities" is a response to the need for renewal after what CEO Jeff Immelt calls the "Great Recession" and definitely not for those short of time or lacking concentration. It is a packed 40 page printed summary, backed by extensive online content, including "deep-dive" articles on key themes from employees, unedited commentary from customers and external experts, individual country fact sheets showcasing the local flavour of GE's citizenship and much more. Taken as a whole, the GE report focuses on the core global themes of GE's citizenship: Energy and Climate Change; Sustainable Healthcare and Community Building, exploring these themes in depth, providing contextual commentary and describing GE's performance in each area. GE's approach is persuasive. They set the scene and describe how they do their bit. It's hard not to get swept along with the logic of it all."
So where is the "BUT", or, as they might say at GE, the butimagination ? Is everything total hunky-dory at GE? There are a few things I addressed in a later section of my review:
"Overall, of the key sectors that make up GE's business, the largest share of revenue comes from GE Capital, which engages in financing capital assets, real estate, loans and even private label credit cards. This $50Bn revenue business, effectively GE's own private Bank, has a fundamental impact on corporate and consumer financial behaviour but is barely mentioned in this report. What is GE's position on the principles of responsible finance and responsible lending? Who and what is GE financing? How GE approaches 32% of its revenue engine remains, in my view, an omission. In fact, this goes to the core of the challenges of balanced sustainability reporting facing a mammoth diversified global business. Whilst GE reports impressively on material themes, and some localized country perspectives, coverage by business segment is lacking. Technology and Energy segments are largely addressed through the Ecomagination and Healthymagination discussions, with some reference to GE's consumer business, but GE's approach to managing its capital and media businesses (including NBC Universal, theme parks, digital media etc) are not discussed. I believe, for a business of this size and diverse scope, a briefing by segment would also be appropriate. One other area which deserves greater disclosure relates to lobbying practices. GE's public policies (China, Iran, Free Trade etc) are clearly stated, and make sense, but a $25Mn annual lobbying spend in the US alone deserves a line or two at least. "
Overall, this report does show GE as one of the leaders in sustainability thinking and practice. I have always maintained that a branded approach to sustainability focuses the mind and corporate energies behind the most important things and delivers business benefit. The GEmagination branding is good. It works. And it delivers.
Anyway, time now for a little ChunkyMonkeymagination ....
elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices Contact me via www.twitter.com/elainecohen on Twitter or via my business website www.b-yond.biz/en (BeyondBusiness, CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)