Small World, Green World: Chevy, Clean Energy and Maine Housing

Post by Bard CEP Director Eban Goodstein

Bard CEP Director Eban Goodstein at GM

Last fall, I took on a volunteer advisory role helping Chevy figure out how to spend $40 million on clean energy projects. I also met Lucy Van Hook, at the time, a new Master’s Student here at Bard CEP.  Lucy came to us from the Maine Housing Authority, where she had been helping develop a pioneering methodology for certifying carbon reduction credits from energy efficiency investments in low-income housing. These two parts of my world soon came together, as Chevy began negotiating purchase of carbon credits from the Housing Authority. The funny thing: as we had both signed NDA’s we couldn’t talk about it!

Lucy Van Hook, Bard CEP MS '12

Now we can. Chevy has just put up a compelling and informative video on climate change, their clean energy investments, and the Maine weatherization project. (Click on the house icon to watch the video).

You may ask: what is a car company doing spending money on carbon reduction projects?  Welcome to the fascinating new world of business sustainability.

With the Volt, GM is now the global leader in the race to electrify the global vehicle fleet. And with several more highly fuel efficient vehicles, Chevy is trying to reposition itself as a sustainability leader, getting beyond its Hummer past. The Clean Energy Initiative is a way to engage the “Prius community” in a common project, and signal strongly that GM is interested in helping envision a clean energy/ low carbon transportation future.

In an age of transparency, sustainability marketing only works if a company in fact makes a serious strategic commitment to reducing the ecological footprint of its products. GM has recently appointed

a Sustainability Director tasked with explicitly building the sustainability vision into strategic planning. That’s one person in a company with two hundred thousand employees—but it is a key step towards corporate transformation.

Is GM GREEN? Not yet. Is any major corporation GREEN? Not yet. What I have found fascinating in working on the initiative is to see how sustainability has gone mainstream—businesses are increasingly seeing sustainability as an engine of innovation and competitive advantage. Last fall, I followed the GM CEO on the stage in Detroit, to talk with 1000 GM employees about sustainability.  Four years ago—who would have thought it?

And BTW—if you pass the Maine video on, Chevy will plant a tree for you. You can even pick your species. I went with American Chestnut.

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