Jeffrey Immelt: Making GE Sustainable

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Case Details:


Case Code : LDEN080 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 500;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 500 + Shipping & Handling Charges extra


Leadership / Responsible Leadership / Ethics

Case Length : 21 Pages
Period : 1998-2011
Pub Date : 2013
Teaching Note : Available
Organization : General Electric Company
Industry : Diversified
Countries : Global


This case describes how Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of US-based technology giant General Electric Company (GE) transformed GE into a world leader in clean energy technologies and environmental solutions. Under his leadership, GE became one of the first companies to recognize the broad scope of applications available to green technology, investing in technologies that added cleaner and more environmentally responsible products to the company's portfolio. The case discusses the events that prompted Immelt to launch Ecomagination. Despite the benefits of the initiative, Immelt received criticism from various quarters.

Leadership and Entrepreneurship Case Studies | Case Study in Management, Operations, Strategies, Leadership and Entrepreneurship, Case Studies

While some critics questioned his seriousness in this initiative and dismissed it as eyewash, others criticized him for being too serious saying that his lobbying for global warming regulations might harm GE's interests. While revenues of Ecomagination products were growing, GE's stock prices were languishing. The case questions whether Immelt would be able to continue his commitment to the initiative in the future and extend its scope, particularly when the global sustainability movement was facing more challenges owing to a tougher economy. The case is ideally suited for post-graduate level students in a Responsible Leadership elective. It can also be used in the General Management and Strategy/ Business Ethics courses.


  • To understand the issues and challenges in leading an organization responsibly.
  • To explore the challenge of taking charge and setting a direction as a new leader, and how this role changes over a period of time.
  • Understand the role leading players such as GE can play in addressing global issues such as climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy conservation and also benefit in the process.
  • Understand the importance of sustainability (especially environmental sustainability), and the role that business leaders could play in this regard.
  • Analyze the Ecomagination strategy employed by Immelt at GE.
  • Understand the reasons for the criticism faced by GE for its Ecomagination initiative and discuss and debate whether GE’s CEO Immelt is a responsible leader.
  • Contents:

      Page No.
    Introduction 1
    Leading GE 2
    Going Green 3
    Ecomagination 5
    Driving Profits 7
    The Other View 9
    A Responsible Leader? 10
    The Road Ahead 11
    Exhibits 12


    Leadership, Responsible leadership, Change management, Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR as a Strategy, Sustainability, Triple bottom line, Shared Value, Stakeholder tension, Ecomagination

    Introduction - Next Page >>


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