General Electric this week made its biggest public commitment to environmental technology, announcing that it is to double its ‘green’ R&D spending by the end of the decade.
The US industrial behemoth claimed the new research initiative, called ‘Ecomagination’, would allow it to double sales from products and services related to improved environmental performance. GE will target areas such as solar energy, fuel cells, lower emission aircraft engines, water purification and advanced materials.
The group also pledged to boost its own environmental credentials by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its facilities. It hopes to be selling $20bn (£10.7bn) worth of environmental related technologies and services by 2010.
The company said that it had initially identified 17 of its own products that meet the Ecomagination criteria, forming the basis of a ‘green list’ that it plans to build up over the next decade. The high-profile environmental commitment by the group — which is working on the initiatives with partners such as Boeing and Delphi — inevitably attracted close scrutiny.
GE chief executive Jeff Immelt stressed that the motivation was based on hard-headed business sense. ‘We plan to make money doing it,’ said Immelt, who claimed that the ‘green’ of the environment was increasingly synonymous with the green colour of dollars in the bank.
Some commentators claimed that the US giant may have been left with little choice but to boost its stable of environmental technologies, despite the lukewarm stance taken by the Bush administration over environmental regulation. They pointed out that GE’s European competitors are being forced to adopt a more stringent approach to the environment. Far from putting them at a disadvantage, this actually leaves them better placed to respond to issues that are likely to become more, not less, pressing over the coming decades.