GM Canada – 2019 SDG Leadership Awards

GM Canada


Industry: Automotive

View 2018 Sustainability Report

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Primary SDG Focus

Secondary SDG Focus

Please describe the actions/objectives towards achieving the SDGs that you have selected above.

At GM Canada our guiding vision is “Zero Crashes, Zero Emissions, Zero Congestion”, and we recognize that emissions don’t just come from cars: waste sent to landfills can produce methane, greenhouse gas emissions, and can lead to more virgin material being extracted. Supporting SDG Goal 12 of Sustainable Production and Consumption, we’ve committed to achieving 150 landfill-free sites and decrease the waste produced per vehicle by 40% worldwide by 2020. As of 2018, we have reached 92% of this goal by receiving landfill-free status at 132 of our facilities around the world – more than any other automaker globally. All GM manufacturing sites and many of our offices in Canada are now landfill-free, and in 2018 alone we diverted close to 2 million Kgs from landfills, the weight of over 1000 vehicles!

To get this far we’ve had to change our view of waste, not just how we can minimize it but also learning how to use waste materials as resources. We are constantly looking to apply circular-economy-model thinking, looking for new ways to take “waste” materials and make them into new components. Anything that does pass through our waste streams is converted into energy. Working with stakeholders, suppliers, Resource Management companies and their partners has been critical to building our waste diversion network. The waste intensity reduction and landfill free goals are part of the GM 2020 manufacturing commitments as we strive to do our part in climate action and encourage global sustainable manufacturing.

GM Canada defines success of the zero-waste program as: “all waste from day-to-day operations managed by any method except landfill.” Each plant’s Environmental group supports all other departments in meeting their goals, which in turn support the top goal of that site obtaining landfill-free status. We created a tool for ourselves called a “Byproducts Inventory Spreadsheet” examining all materials and waste-streams. These provide the teams with focus areas and specific items to reduce or eliminate. Each department has their own regularly updated milestones, ensuring everyone plays a part while also recognizing that waste reduction is an ongoing process.

Waste reduction is a familiar concept to our workers, echoed across their communities, their children’s schools and municipalities. Their day-1 interest, coupled with the corporate commitments, created a unique approach that leveraged both a ‘Top-Down’ and a ‘Bottom-Up’ management of waste. While the goal is housed and owned by the Environmental ‘Sustainable Workplaces’ group, the vast majority is implemented at the plant level by the Manufacturing, Facilities, and Production groups.

Innovation is not only fundamental to our vehicles, but also how we run the workplace. That’s why this year we launched an internal challenge, calling for ideas to help transform GM to reduce waste both in the workplace and through our vehicles. We received over 100 ideas across all parts of the company and are examining the feasibility of all of them, showing our employees that we listen and empowering them to continue to help us on our journey to zero emissions.

On the hierarchy of waste, prevention comes first. That’s why we’re dedicated to the mobility future through our urban mobility car-sharing programs, Maven and Lyft, and our electric and autonomous vehicle research and development. These projects aim to significantly reduce the number of vehicles on the road and ultimately reduce air pollution. In 2017, GM’s Volt and Bolt electric vehicles accounted for 1/3 of all plug-in electric vehicles sales in Canada. Going forward, we intend to further advance our technologies and continue as an industry leader in electric vehicles sales.

Please specify the impact of your organization’s actions on the SDGs that you have selected above.

Waste Reduction Impact:

  • 97% of all GM Canada’s waste recycled, reused, or converted to energy rather than sent to landfill, translating into over 2 million tonnes of recycled and diverted waste
  • 700kg plastic bottles made into car parts and coats for the homeless

Reuse/Circularity Impact:

  • Chevrolet Volt batteries are helping keep the lights on at the new General Motors Enterprise Data Center at its Milford Proving Ground in Milford, Michigan. A Volt battery-array works with an adjacent solar array and two wind turbines to help supply power to the data center’s administrative offices.
  • Creative solutions like upcycled Chevrolet Volt battery cases into bat boxes, nesting structures for endangered ducks and, most recently, into planter boxes for gardens
  • Producing car components entirely from recycled plastic, such as seat components in our 3-row SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade

Please describe your goals/action plans to advance the SDGs that you have selected above in the next 5 years.

The focus on ‘Responsible Consumption and Production’ is entrenched in the GM 2020 commitments. These 9 commitments were developed to support sustainable manufacturing operations, strong environmental performance, and community empowerment. They were chosen as GM’s most significant environmental influencers, and cover water, air, land, and community. Our focus on waste reduction has been pivotal in developing more efficient operations and resource usage, lowering the company’s material footprint and increasing recycling capture rates.

While we plan to achieve our target of 150 landfill-free sites by 2020, those manufacturing facilities represent only one phase of the product life cycle. We are moving toward a more systems-based approach that goes beyond the GM enterprise to take into consideration the materials used in our vehicles. That process begins with vehicle design and extends through end-of-life. It requires engagement with suppliers through every tier of the supply chain and the communities in which we operate—all with the objective of finding uses for our products that require minimal additional processing and that contribute to a more circular economy. GM is already exploring ways to incorporate more recycled materials into our vehicles, and we’re creating opportunities for our employees to connect, innovate, and incorporate circular economies into our production process.

Successful, widespread and safe deployment of autonomous vehicles (AVs) will require the right integration of technology, talent and manufacturing expertise. When it comes to developing and deploying self-driving vehicles, General Motors and its Cruise AV subsidiary are in a unique leadership position, with everything from design, engineering, validation and testing all under one roof.

We are nearly doubling our AV workforce over the next few years as we develop and prepare to safely commercialize AVs.

Lithium-ion batteries, like the internal combustion engines found in conventional vehicles, are designed for extended life but may eventually wear out. Batteries from Chevrolet Volt hybrids, Chevrolet Bolt EVs and future GM EVs are no exception: We estimate that more than 100,000 batteries will  have been retired by 2027, and that number will  more than double by 2030.

We’re looking ahead and trying to find ways to not only maximize batteries’ useful life, but also direct them to secondary uses and eventually recycle their component parts. While the hybrids and EVs on the road today may have years of usable life ahead, GM is proactively developing a battery life cycle management strategy that will increase our vehicles’ residual value, provide sustainability benefits and, through repurposing batteries for stationary storage, reduce the impact that a proliferation of EVs will have on the electrical grid. In addition, we are creating industry partnerships, joining with Honda to develop next-generation battery technologies.

Beyond transitioning to electric, autonomous and shared vehicles, we are working across our global operations to minimize our environmental impact on the way to a zero-emissions future. We committed to 125MW of renewable energy by 2020 and are already closing in on 400MW, about 20% of our operation needs, and we are rapidly moving towards our 100% renewable energy target by 2050. Already several of our manufacturing and non-manufacturing facilities run entirely on wind energy, like our full-size SUV assembly plant in Arlington, Texas, and we are exploring other forms of renewable energy like at our St. Catharines plant, which uses a landfill-gas co-generation plant to generate 1/3 of it’s electricity demand from renewable energy, while reducing the plants GHG emissions by 77%.

Ultimately, strengthening our positive societal, ecological, and economic impact is foundational to GM Canada’s current practices, goals for the next 5 years, and for generations to come.

Does your organization engage in any partnerships to advance the SDGs? If yes, please elaborate. If no, please indicate whether you would be interested in partnership opportunities.


GM Canada has a large and ever-growing list of partnerships we have formed with nonprofits, institutions, conservation authorities, businesses, and individuals. In the past few years we’ve been working to grow that network to include Resource Management businesses that help us maintain landfill-free sites and that We believe that strategic partnerships are imperative to progressing towards a sustainable future and we are constantly seeking innovative solutions with our partners to accelerate this movement. These are some of the partnerships we’ve formed in pursuit of Zero Emissions and a circular economy future:

  • Veiolia
  • MPS
  • Terrapure
  • Lavergne – one of our recycling specialists at our CAMI assembly plant
  • Lear – working with Lavergne, Lear produces some of the recycled material components we use in our vehicles

How are you communicating and measuring your impact towards the SDGs?

Within the organization, internal communication tactics are utilized to inform employees and encourage involvement with GM Canada’s sustainability news and events, including our internal website, email updates, employee engagement campaigns, info-graphs, monthly meetings with our Canadian facility green teams, and meetings with our global GM sustainability teams. It is also important for us to be open and transparent with the public and our customers. We want to ensure that our commitment to sustainable development is embedded in all our practices and is strongly and accurately expressed to the community. Our methods for external communication for sustainability purposes include our public website, information booths, event presentations, social media, and media interviews. Globally, GM communicates its sustainability impact publicly through an annual Sustainability Report. This report has been prepared in accordance with the “core” guidelines of Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards.

We also had our first, day-long Sustainability Symposium for our employees, with over 400 participants who got to learn more about our sustainability efforts and hear from high-level executives about the ways sustainability is important to every aspect of our operations. Teams from all divisions of GM were invited to set up booths after the symposium, presenting different projects focused on improving vehicle efficiency and incorporated recycled materials. Lastly, from the symposium we launched an internal, company-wide crowd-sourced innovation challenge to find ideas to make GM a more sustainable company, receiving over 100 unique ideas across all aspects of our operations.

General Motors started working with the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) in 2010, when we began tracking carbon emissions and reduction activities through the CDP Climate Change Program. In 2013, we expanded our reporting to include all 15 categories of Scope 3 emissions, achieving our goal a year ahead of our original plan. GM has received perfect climate disclosure scores in the U.S. for the last three years (2016, 2015, 2014) and in 2016 was named CDP’s Climate A-List – a spot held by just 9 percent of the thousands of companies participating in CDP’s climate change program.

In addition to the climate change program, we have voluntarily participated in the CDP Water program since 2011. In 2017, we sponsored CDP’s World Water Day report, offering solutions to wastewater reuse, and were a gold sponsor of CDP’s Water & Forests Workshop.

We also participate in the CDP Supply Chain program, engaging our supply chain for the past five years in actions to reduce their emissions, mitigate their effects on climate change and strengthen their overall businesses. We asked about 200 of our suppliers to disclose their energy use and carbon emission data to CDP and offered resources to help. The 70 percent of invited companies that responded reduced carbon emissions in total by 90 metric tons, saving a cumulative $23 billion of which 8 million metric tons and $1.2 billion was attributed to their business with GM.

Internally, GM Canada sets objectives and measures progress utilizing full staff involvement with environmental business goals engrained in business plan deployment. Environmental objectives are set and progress is measured and tracked utilizing 14001 certified Environmental Management Systems at all manufacturing locations.

The GM team is dedicated to accelerating the trajectories of climate change action while increasing our positive societal impact. Tackling waste through creating landfill-free sites and increasing our participation in the circular economy synergize our commitment to propel towards a more sustainable future.