Guest Post: GE Corporation
CSR and Making Money
By Frank Mantero
Frank Mantero is the Director, Corporate Citizenship Programs, for GE Corporation. He is responsible for coordinating the company’s global citizenship efforts, developing and managing the company’s Citizenship Report, monitoring the company’s engagement with the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and being the lead communicator for GE-sponsored disaster relief efforts.
Recent articles in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post have reinvigorated the debate about whether corporate social responsibility, or as we call it at GE, corporate citizenship, can create value for business as well as for society. While in many ways this is a rehash of discussions that have been going on for years, the combined acts of corporate irresponsibility that have captured headlines in the last year provide an important reminder of the impacts that good citizenship can have on business value. At GE, our corporate citizenship efforts impact our ability to create business value and make money both directly and indirectly.
Direct impacts are those corporate citizenship activities that help the company increase revenue and cut costs. Ecomagination, our initiative to help meet customers’ demand for more energy-efficient products, is a great example of the former—in the first 5 years, we invested $5 billion in clean tech R&D, and we generated $70 billion in ecomagination revenues.
Our corporate responsibility efforts have also helped us to access emerging markets and capture market share to accelerate revenue growth. The Developing Health Globally™ program for example was designed to apply GE products, expertise, and employee experience to improving healthcare delivery in the developing world. In the process, the company has gained a better understanding of these markets, and we have already applied many of these lessons in launching a line of technology products designed specifically for the needs of emerging markets.
Corporate citizenship also helps GE to reduce our costs as well: as an example, the company’s commitment to reduce internal water use led to the collection of consumption data across every GE business for two years. GE then matched the highest-consuming sites with innovative technologies from its own water business to bring consumption down and save money.
Corporate citizenship at GE also has indirect impacts on business value. For instance, many of our citizenship programs—such as our efforts to improve the social and environmental performance of our suppliers—help the company to reduce risk in our operations and build stability in our costs and revenues.
Similarly, many of our employees cite our efforts to help communities around the world as key driver in their desired to work at our company. Employee engagement resulting from strong citizenship performance can increase productivity and decrease hiring costs, ultimately improving our margins.
For GE, being a responsible citizen makes good business sense—we not only make social and environmental improvements, we also improve our ability to make money.