Brazil is now the world’s seventh-largest economy and has become the ninth-largest energy consumer in the world. And because it’s creating greater energy demand, it’s also adding further strain on the environment. As one of the leading nations on international climate change negotiations, Brazil has voluntarily committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 39% by 2020, relative to 2005 levels.
Aligning with these and other sustainability goals—and demonstrating Latin America’s importance to GE—GE Latin America has introduced its first Citizenship Report for the region, including versions for Brazil and Mexico. The report provides a broad vision of GE’s recent sustainability initiatives, and the impact of company decisions and operations, mapping and identifying actions, and challenges guided by three pillars of the GE Citizenship framework: people, planet and economy.
“Brazil, for instance, has experienced rapid economic change in recent years, which has led to new business opportunities but also to significant sustainability challenges,” says Reinaldo Garcia, President & CEO of GE Latin America. “Our global business strategy responds to these local priorities. Publishing this sustainability profile is part of this undertaking and of our willingness to demonstrate our dedication to Brazil’s sustainable development.”
One tangible example of this effort is the construction of GE’s fifth Global Research Center in Rio de Janeiro. Expected to employ 400 researchers and engineers at full capacity, the facility already has 80 researchers working on developing technological solutions in the oil and gas, bioenergy, mining, rail, aviation and healthcare industries. The Research Center will also feature a Crotonville Rio Learning Center that will train GE employees, partners and customers.
This regionalization effort began by identifying social, environmental and economic challenges most material to GE in the region, and incorporating sustainability principles into the local business strategy, processes and culture.
GE Latin America consulted with external stakeholders in Brazil, including key customers, trade associations, environmental agencies, NGOs and governments, to learn about their perceptions and expectations of GE’s sustainability practices.
Through these engagements, the company identified five strategic sustainability topics, which have become the focus of local efforts:
- Access to healthcare
- Skills gap
- Water scarcity and quality, and energy consumption
- Climate change
- Local development
Examples of key initiatives in these areas are outlined in the report. These include:
- A partnership with INMED Brasil, an NGO focused on providing preventive health education to vulnerable, underserved and hard-to-reach populations. In Salgueiro, an area of Rio de Janeiro with very little access to community health agents and healthcare education, the partnership provided training to a team of 13 community health educators. As a result, 130 individuals in 2012 received baseline growth and development measurements, hemoglobin testing and blood pressure measurement.
- A partnership with Brazil’s National Electric Agency and the Brazilian Wind Energy Association to successfully scale renewable energy in Brazil. The group has set a goal of achieving 10 gigawatts of wind energy capacity by 2020. GE has been contributing to this goal by designing and commercializing turbines that are customized to take advantage of the high-wind and low-turbulence conditions found in Brazil, increasing the efficiency of wind power generation.
- An effort to bring advanced ultrafiltration water-purification technologies to industry and communities, which have been deployed initially in the city of Campinas, where untreated sewage was previously discharged into rivers, compromising communities and businesses downstream. In partnership with SANASA, Campinas’ municipal wastewater plant, the technology is helping to treat 100% of the city’s sewage. This is the first of many projects to help Brazilian municipal governments in their efforts to achieve universal water and wastewater coverage.
- A partnership with SENAI, Brazil’s major provider of vocational and technical training to develop the future workforce and provide students and trainees apprenticeships with GE. In 2012, the partnership trained approximately 225 students across different businesses, adding to GE’s long tradition of investing in talent development in Brazil.
Increasing Employee Volunteerism
In addition, GE Latin America is working to improve the quality of employee-based volunteer programs and GE Foundation-funded initiatives, by aligning social investment and community engagement efforts with the challenges facing the surrounding communities in Latin America.
In 2012, for example, the GE Foundation donated more than US $260,000 to four partners in Brazil in the areas of health, education and public policy. Through its partnership with Junior Achievement, GE also helped thousands of young people gain access to work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy programs. Additionally, 161 GE employees contributed nearly 1,900 hours of their time to work with 1,016 students across 10 cities in Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo.
The idea for the sustainability report is to reach not only employees and partners, but all kinds of stakeholders, such as commercial associations, universities, new employees, and others interested in sustainable development and GE’s contribution. Content is available in English, Portuguese and Spanish.
Read the full report here