Monday 24th October 2016                 Change text size:

GE aim to right wrongs with Mongolian wind farm project

wind farm

General Electric, once at the forefront of the nuclear weapons industry, is fronting a new project to give Mongolia its very first wind farm. Alex Blackburne investigates a company never far away from controversy.

Following the announcement last week that the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator was to pioneer an ‘ice shield’ to tackle the adverse effects of global warming, the country has taken another positive step towards a sustainable future by planning its first ever wind farm.

The $100m project, set to be located 70km south of Ulan Bator, is being funded and implemented by General Electric (GE), one of the world’s largest corporations, in association with Newcom LLC, one of the leading investment companies in Mongolia, and will start producing energy next year.

As one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, with World Bank data noting growth rates in the third quarter at 20.8%, Mongolia has big plans for renewable energy, and will have lapped up the lucrative investment interest from GE, as it looks to further its growth.

Although on the face of it a positive step in the developing world’s battle against climate change, GE, ranked 16th in the 2011 Global 500 with an estimated income of over $151 billion, have, historically, a far from positive record when it comes to sustainability and human rights.

In 2001, corporation analysis magazine, Multinational Monitor, wrote, “GE has a lengthy record of criminal, civil, political and ethical transgressions, some of them shocking in disregard for the integrity of human beings”, in a report called GE: Decades of Misdeeds and Wrongdoing.

Under the heading, ‘The GE Rap Sheet’, Multinational Monitor point out some of the company’s misdemeanours between 1990 and 2001. Some of the alleged offences include worker discrimination, pollution, safety violations, money laundering, contamination and failed clean-ups.

The company’s biggest controversy came in the early ‘90s, though, when it was placed under severe scrutiny for its involvement in the nuclear weapons industry.

A 1991 Academy Award-winning short film named Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environmentjuxtaposed GE’s rosy ‘We Bring Good Things To Life’ commercials with the true stories of workers and neighbours whose lives have been devastated by the company’s involvement in building and testing nuclear bombs”, reads New Day Films’ website.

Nine months of intense criticism later, and GE did indeed pull out of the nuclear weapons trade, but still to this day has dozens of nuclear plants across the globe, including the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.

Forgetting the fact that GE somehow didn’t owe any taxes in 2010, despite earning over $14 billion in profit worldwide and the fact that it has supplied parts to coal-fired plants in the past, to the company’s credit, they have tried to turn things round considerably in the past decade.

It has set up Ecomagination, its self-proclaimed “commitment to imagine and build innovative solutions to today’s environmental challenges while driving economic growth”.

The project addresses challenges in finding cleaner, more-efficient energy sources and water, whilst also highlighting the need to reduce carbon emissions. It does this by using its “unique energy, technology, manufacturing and infrastructure capabilities to develop solutions”.

GE’s involvement in the Mongolian renewable energy revolution means the Asian country can continue its overwhelmingly fast economic growth. The $100m investment is relatively small change for the American giant, as it attempts to sweep its not-so-pretty past under the global carpet.

If you would like to find out more about investing in companies that don’t have such major blemishes on their records, but instead progress ethically and sustainably, ask your financial adviser, if you have one, or complete our online form and we’ll connect you with a specialist ethical adviser.

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