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.

Home / case studies / Case study: How General Motors is promoting vehicle efficiency and minimizing CO2 emissions

Case study: How General Motors is promoting vehicle efficiency and minimizing CO2 emissions

General Motors’ (GM) business strategy focuses on building trust with its customers and stakeholders, as trust is the cornerstone of business success. Promoting fuel efficiency while minimizing vehicle CO2 emissions is beneficial for both customers and the environment.

This case study is based on the 2015 Sustainability Report by General Motors published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate that CSR/ sustainability reporting done responsibly is achieved by identifying an organization’s or company’s most important impacts on the environment and stakeholders and by measuring, managing and changing. 

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Maintaining almost 400 facilities, including over 170 manufacturing plants worldwide, GM carries out its business activities based on a set of Environmental Principles  Tweet This! that constitutes an adequate basis for environmental stewardship. Ensuring vehicle efficiency creates value for customers, by reducing the total cost of ownership. Minimizing vehicle CO2 emissions has a positive environmental impact. In order to promote vehicle efficiency and minimize CO2 emissions GM took action to:

  • reduce vehicle mass and enhance the internal combustion engine (ICE)
  • promote engine efficiency
  • invest in vehicle electrification
  • support universal fuel saving regulations

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2015 Sustainability Report GM identified a range of material issues, such as customer satisfaction, product safety, labor relations, operational energy and emissions. Among these, ensuring vehicle efficiency and minimizing CO2 emissions 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 organization should identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations.”

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
Customers, both individual and fleet
Dealers and dealer councils
Employees, both current and potential new talent
Investors and analysts
Suppliers, Tier I and beyond
Communities in which GM operates
Governments at the national, state/provincial and local levels
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

To identify and prioritize material issues, GM conducted a survey among internal and external stakeholders, including 795 GM employees and 72 external stakeholders, who were asked to also propose additional topics. Employees gave their feedback on how the way an issue was managed could influence GM’s long-term prosperity, and external stakeholders were invited to assess the importance of GM’s management of various issues.

What actions were taken by GM to promote vehicle efficiency and minimize CO2 emissions?

In its 2015 Sustainability Report GM reports that it took the following actions for promoting vehicle efficiency and minimizing CO2 emissions:

  • Reducing vehicle mass and enhancing the internal combustion engine (ICE)
  • GM realized that reducing vehicle mass and enhancing ICE are vital in order to boost vehicle efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions. This goal is reached by:
    • developing a more efficient aerodynamic design;
    • combining lighter materials;
    • implementing new proprietary and patented manufacturing techniques;
  • GM achieved weight reduction across its international product portfolio, with direct customer benefits. The reduction in vehicle mass helped GM save $2 billion in material costs, and, as a consequence, the final price was reduced.
  • Promoting engine efficiency
  • As gasoline will probably remain the most common fuel in almost every corner of the world in the foreseeable future, GM is striving to make sure engine efficiency by investing in technologies that optimize the ICE efficiency. Thus, the company may develop a portfolio of engines which are significantly smaller, cleaner and more efficient than in previous years. At the same time, GM optimizes usable power and performance features which are considered vital by its customers.
  • Investing in vehicle electrification
  • GM regards vehicle electrification as a cornerstone in the future of the automotive industry and invests in an expanding portfolio of electric vehicles (EV). In addition, GM is striving to further improve its internal development and manufacturing capacities regarding electric batteries, motors and power controls, providing a wide spectrum of technologies that can function on alternative fuels and satisfy the needs of various markets worldwide, due to discrepancies in fueling infrastructures.
  • Supporting universal fuel saving regulations
  • Current environmental regulations associated with vehicle CO2 emissions and fuel economy differ from region to region. GM believes that harmonized universal standards would be beneficial for its business, customers, competitors and the environment. However, the development of harmonized universal standards cannot be achieved without a consensus among countries and may be time-consuming. As a result, GM is supporting mutual recognition agreements, a procedure that enables two or more countries to recognize each other’s standards and get rid of costly and useless redundancies.

Which GRI indicators/Standards have been addressed?

The GRI indicators/Standards addressed in this case are:

1) G4-EC2: Financial implications and other risks and opportunities for the organization’s activities due to climate change – the updated GRI Standard is: Disclosure 201-2 Financial implications and other risks and opportunities due to climate change

2) G4-EN7: Reductions in energy requirements of products and services – the updated GRI Standard is: Disclosure 302-5 Reductions in energy requirements of products and services

3) G4-EN27: Extent of impact mitigation of environmental impacts of products and services



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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