The case for CSR/ Sustainability Reporting Done Responsibly


Insights on how you can protect the environment, maintain and increase the value of your company, through a structured process.

Insights on how you can protect the environment, maintain and increase the value of your company, through a structured process.

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Case study: How General Motors improves vehicle safety

As a leading global automaker, with 52 nonmanufacturing and 100 manufacturing landfill-free sites around the globe, General Motors (GM) is firmly committed to protecting the safety of its customers. Accordingly, in the past few years GM has completely refreshed its approach to safety, strengthening resources and building a culture of safety.

This case study is based on the 2016 Sustainability Report by GM published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate what CSR/ ESG/ sustainability reporting done responsibly means. Essentially, it means: a) identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment, economy and society, and b) measuring, managing and changing.

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GM envisions a future of zero crashes and has committed to leading the way towards this future  Tweet This!, making vehicle safety everyone’s responsibility across the company. In order to improve vehicle safety GM took action to:
  • appoint a Vice President of Global Vehicle Safety
  • expand product safety resources
  • implement a Speak Up for Safety programme
  • use data analytics to identify possible vehicle safety issue

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2016 Sustainability Report GM identified a range of material issues, such as customer satisfaction, vehicle efficiency & emissions, employee relations, operational waste, product innovation. Among these, promoting vehicle safety stands out as a key material issue for GM.

Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards              

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:

“The reporting organization shall identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations and interests.”

Stakeholders must be consulted in the process of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.

Key stakeholder groups GM engages with:

Stakeholder Group
Investors and analysts
Dealers and dealer councils
Nongovernmental organisations

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

To identify and prioritise material topics GM carried out two online surveys among GM employees and external stakeholders, asking respondents to prioritise the importance of sustainability topics and subtopics. The surveys were completed by 1,052 GM employees and 367 external stakeholders.

What actions were taken by GM to improve vehicle safety?

In its 2016 Sustainability Report GM reports that it took the following actions for improving vehicle safety:

  • Appointing a Vice President of Global Vehicle Safety
  • GM has structured its decision-making process for safety issues to include executives at the highest levels of the company. This includes appointing, in 2016, a first-ever Vice President of Global Vehicle Safety. In addition to leading GM’s product safety organisation, this senior executive has global responsibility for developing GM’s vehicle safety systems, confirming and validating GM’s vehicle safety performance, identifying emerging issues and conducting post-sale safety activities, including recalls.
  • Expanding product safety resources
  • GM has been expanding its Product Safety organisation, adding over 200 employees since 2014. This includes more than 40 new internal product investigators in North America who help identify and quickly resolve possible vehicle safety issues, and 32 safety forensic engineers responsible for early identification of potential vehicle safety issues. Additionally, GM reorganised its Global Vehicle Engineering organisation to improve its cross-system integration and address functional safety and compliance in the vehicle development process.
  • Implementing a Speak Up for Safety programme
  • GM’s Speak Up for Safety programme aims to offer employees, suppliers and dealers an easy, consistent and unfiltered way to report potential vehicle safety issues. Through a toll-free phone number, a smartphone app, email or the Speak Up for Safety website, submitters can report any potential vehicle safety risks, suggesting safety-related improvements. Subsequently, GM’s dedicated safety team funnels employee concerns to the appropriate departments and, through the entire process, potentially interconnected risks that cross products can be better identified. Employees across GM have embraced Speak Up for Safety and, since the programme’s beginning, over 12,000 concerns and/or suggestions by employees and dealers have been logged globally.
  • Using data analytics to identify possible vehicle safety issues
  • GM has been making greater use of data analytics, to identify potential vehicle safety issues. A data analytics team is merging multiple inputs (such as Speak Up for Safety submissions and dealer service records) to build a unique, comprehensive database. Statistical analysis and modelling can identify possible issues much earlier, by linking perceived disparate issues.

Which GRI Standards and corresponding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been addressed?

The GRI Standard addressed in this case is: Disclosure 416-1 Assessment of the health and safety impacts of product and service categories

Disclosure 416-1 Assessment of the health and safety impacts of product and service categories does not correspond to any SDG.


80% of the world’s 250 largest companies report in accordance with the GRI Standards

SustainCase was primarily created to demonstrate, through case studies, the importance of dealing with a company’s most important impacts in a structured way, with use of the GRI Standards. To show how today’s best-run companies are achieving economic, social and environmental success – and how you can too.

Research by well-recognised institutions is clearly proving that responsible companies can look to the future with optimism.

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1) This case study is based on published information by GM, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original, please revert to the original on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link:


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