Clinton Global Initiative exec talks about safety in Chinese factories

General Electric

On July 20, GE issued its sixth annual Citizenship Report, and as part of the rollout, we’re taking a closer look at critical corporate responsibility issues as seen through non-GE eyes. In Part 1 of our series, we highlighted the experience of mining giant Rio Tinto’s Andrew Jenkin — one of more than 20 global thought leaders, customers and GE employees whose essays are published, unedited, in the online report. Andrew cited the work being done to reduce the energy footprint of their mines in Australia, especially in the area of water use. On July 21, we spotlight an essay by Robert Harrison, CEO of the Clinton Global Initiative, who writes about plans to launch a second Environment, Health and Safety Academy in China and to add clean energy and climate issues to the EHS certification process.

A ripple effect: The first EHS Academy was launched late last year and is based at Sun Yat-sen University’s Lingnan College, a respected business school in the southern city of Guangzhou. Drawing on best practices from companies such as GE, Honeywell, Walmart and Adidas, the goal is to support the growth of a Chinese EHS profession that will boost compliance in factories, rein in energy use and encourage conversion to cleaner energy. Lead funding has been provided by GE, the U.S. Agency for International Development and Walmart.

In his essay, “Developing strong local and international partnerships,” Robert writes that one of the reasons his organization likes the academy so much is because the project “fills a gap.” He continues: “We could see the enormous potential for the EHS Academy model to fill a distinct need in China, which is currently the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. The pace of supply chain expansion has outpaced even traditional EHS compliance efforts, and a systematic approach to monitoring greenhouse gas emissions throughout supply chains did not exist. A comprehensive, sustainable approach, with the potential to get to scale quickly, was needed.”

Robert S. Harrison is also chairman of the board of directors of the Henry Street Settlement, vice-chairman of the board of trustees of Cornell University, and a member of the board of directors of the Association of American Rhodes Scholars.

“The Academy is an innovative partnership because it combines the relative strengths of governments, local partners, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, and multi-national corporations,” he writes. “It’s crucial for all these different types of organizations to collaborate to address the challenges of Chinese supply chains….”

“In China, scale is key. ISC’s [Academy backer Institute for Sustainable Communities’] corporate partners are absolutely integral to ensuring that meaningful scale is reached. By committing to send their own managers to the trainings, they can continue to test and refine the Academy’s impacts. And as success is demonstrated, they can expand the trainings to the supply chain managers throughout their operations. With prominent industry leaders like GE, Walmart and Adidas involved, the chances of rapid widespread adoption are much improved.

“Beyond that, the Academy model is unique for its investment in leadership training, not just compliance training. Managers coming out of their training will be positioned to be real agents of change, and to address the challenges presented by the existing patchwork approach to EHS and energy management in China….”

As Robert notes, “scale is already happening” with the next Academy in Jiangsu expected to train 4,000 managers per year. “The long-term aim is to change policy and practice across Chinese industry … and the EHS Academy seems to hit all the right notes — by rooting itself in Chinese academic institutions, garnering the support of key government agencies, and involving its main stakeholders in the funding and operations of the program.”

The Citizenship Web site also features a Q&A with Yu Yang, EHS Manager with Fortune Electric Ltd., a Chinese supplier, who attended the EHS Academy.

* Read Robert’s full post
* Read a feature story about the EHS Academy on the Citizenship website
* Read “China charts green goals with new partnership” on GE Reports
* Read “Responsibility snapshot: 6th Citizenship Report debuts” on GE Reports
* View the Citizenship Report and the relaunched Web site at
* Read “Citizen GE: Linking sustainability to public trust” on GE Reports

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