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GE CEO: Capitalism and Sustainability Can Coexist

Jeff Immelt says US government should look at the bigger picture and create jobs in renewable sectors

Tue Dec 1 2009

Business leaders from some of the world’s leading companies argued that the corporate world could strike the right balance between sustainability and profit making at the 2009 Net Impact Conference.

The two-day event held by Cornell University, hosted the CEOs of General Electric (GE), Coca Cola, Starbucks and Xerox among others. A total of 300 speakers participated in about 100 events, discussing topics related to sustainable global enterprise including energy, social entrepreneurship and international development and investment.
Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO of GE, joined Cornell President David Skorton on November 13 in a discussion titled "Driving Innovation and Economic Renewal In a Global Context". Over 2,400 business professionals and graduate students attended.
Immelt was enthusiastic about the future of the energy market: “So much is going to happen in the next 20 to 30 years”, he said.
The world is seeing more growth outside the US than inside, said Immelt, who is also on President Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Council. For example, China will overtake the United States in its use of battery, wind and solar technology by the end of this year.
By 2030, 10 million new jobs in the renewable energy sector will be created in emerging economies like China and India, he added.
In order for the US to benefit from this, the government would have to implement demanded “progressive public policies”, he said. “I think what's at stake for the US is: are the jobs going to be here or are they going to be somewhere else?”
While job creation is a priority of the Advisory Council, Immelt said the government should have a “global perspective” on the economy and focus on industries that can solve the biggest problems in the world.
Climate change is one of these problems. Immelt said that GE has drastically reduced its carbon dioxide emissions, effectively complying with the Kyoto Protocol targets.
He also emphasized GE’s vision: “The value that GE has in this conference is one: it is the merger of sustainability with capitalism.” 
Watch GE CEO Immelt’s keynotes