General Electric (GE) is an American multinational conglomerate with
considerable commitments towards sustainable development. In the following
essay we talk about How GE is ‘doing good’, how it is ‘avoiding harm’ and how
are there actions related to 17 Sustainable Developmental Goals set by the United
Nations. Also, we critique GE on it’s commitments and whether their actions
focused towards development of the society or it’s shareholders.
General Electric is an American multinational conglomerate operating in
segments like Aviation, Healthcare, Oil and Gas, Power, Renewable Energy,
Pharmaceuticals, Automotive etc. Fortune ranked GE the 13th largest
firm in the US in 2017 in terms of gross revenue (US$123.7 Billion) and 3rd
highest in terms of gross profit (US$9.03 Billion). 1
In the Stakeholder Triangle by Van Tulder2, GE can be positioned
in the non-state, for-profit section that produces private goods (see Figure 1).
It is a publicly listed firm and has to keep it’s shareholder’s interest at the
core of their business strategy making it their fiduciary duty to maximise profits.
Ecosystem Assessment argues that it is imperative that corporations take a
leading role in creating a sustainable society” (Alcamo et al. 2003:7). Focusing on the argument about whether firms have
a responsibility to become more sustainable beyond what is asked of them by law
or whether their only aim is to maximize profit, regardless of the societal
cost, the MA argues that the two goals are not mutually exclusive. The assessment
concludes that if the corporations do not become more sustainable, their bottom
lines will decline as the global society degrades. (Assadourian, E 2006: 572)
GE has taken several measures to reposition itself as an energy and environmental
solutions firm as a ‘source of differentiation in business model, brand,
employee engagement, and other intangibles, fundamentally repositioning the
company and redefining its strategy for competitive advantage. Moving from its
earlier image of producing resource intensive engines and power plants to
building a green aura around the brand, GE has successfully altered it’s brand image
while remaining active in the industries it is accustomed to (Lubin 2010:42).