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GM Chief Sustainability Officer: We’re focused on an ‘all-inclusive’ EV transition

GM Chief Sustainability Officer Kristen Siemen joins Yahoo Finance Live to detail GM's plans for an electric vehicle transition and how the company is looking to tackle Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 emissions.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Well, General Motors is moving aggressively climate goals, announcing a new partnership with the National Wildlife Foundation. GM will donate 1 million to raise about-- raise awareness about communities vulnerable to climate change. The move comes as GM races ahead to go all electric by 2035.

Joining us now is Kristin Siemen. She's chief sustainability officer at GM here in town for UN Climate Week. And it's good to have you in studio. That partnership and the issue of climate equity is such an important part of addressing all this because even if we're talking about EVs right now, it is about affordability and accessibility. How does this new partnership allow you to expand beyond the pool of drivers and the pool of those who are addressing climate change right now?

KRISTIN SIEMEN: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. So thanks for having me here today. And this partnership aligns very well with our work around equitable climate action, where we're very focused on making sure that this transition to all-electric is all-inclusive. And it's very important, as you mentioned, to have affordable products across every price point and segment. And this partnership allows us to really work with the young and the youth, particularly in the case of 12 areas in HBCUs to really drive education and drive awareness and support to communities that maybe traditionally have been left behind.

AKIKO FUJITA: Talk to us a little bit about some of the challenges of reaching climate initiatives by certain targets. I mean, you still need fossil in order to mine materials for EVs. How does this all play out when you're talking about these green initiatives?

KRISTIN SIEMEN: Yeah, so GM's made some very ambitious goals where we're really proud of their commitment around being carbon neutral in our products and operations by 2040, our plan to eliminate tailpipe emissions from light duty vehicles by 2035, and really working along that, we've made great progress towards those very ambitious goals. You mentioned the supply chain, and we have all of the materials for our batteries secured for our commitment for 2025 to have a million EV capacity here in North America, as well as in China. So really working very closely with our supply chain on sustainable materials and having that in place is really important.

AKIKO FUJITA: You mentioned that target of being carbon neutral by 2040 with every company. Scope 1 and 2, which is your direct emissions, is always the easy part, right? Scope 3, which is your supply chain, a much bigger challenge. How closely are you working with those partners right now? And how big of a load is that when you consider the investment that's needed to help some of those partners come along for this ride?

KRISTIN SIEMEN: Yeah, so as you mentioned, scope 1 and 2 is the traditional work for GM. That's less than 2% of our overall carbon footprint. About 84% of our carbon footprint is the customer usage of our vehicles. So that transition to an all-electric future in the portfolio is so important. The next chunk is the supply chain. And we're working really closely with our suppliers.

In fact, last year, we issued what we call an ESG pledge with our suppliers. And that's around working with them to make their own commitments around carbon neutral goals, as well as them working on the human rights aspects and the sustainability of their supply chain. And we've made-- we have great suppliers. We have great relationships. And that pledge is just moving that commitment even closer.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, on the supplier issue, the president obviously signed in the Inflation Reduction Act. A lot of carmakers were vocally opposed to the requirements that are needed to get those EV tax credits in place because a majority of it would have to be supplied from North America. When you look at what the supply chain looks like for GM, in your estimation, how long would it take for GM to be able-- GM cars to be able to qualify for that?

KRISTIN SIEMEN: Yeah, I mean, the Inflation Recovery Act has a lot of great points in it. And although it's going to be challenging to make it happen overnight, we're really excited with the support that it provides for our all-electric future. As far as the manufacturing here in the United States, I mean, GM's announced four battery cell manufacturing plants. In fact, our facility in Ohio has already started production. And so we're really excited to see the resiliency and the sustainability of really having that and making the country a leader and strong.

AKIKO FUJITA: But as it stands now, the cars would not qualify because of where the cars are sourced from?

KRISTIN SIEMEN: No, I mean, we're doing our manufacturing here in the US as well. We've got a number of plants that have already converted. So we're well on our way to meeting those plans.

INES FERRE: And what about on the demand side and getting consumers on board to adopt, for example, electric vehicles? I know that GM just announced a deal with Hertz to provide Hertz with 175,000 EVs. There still needs to be, though, an infrastructure that's set up for charging electric vehicles. The price point needs to come down. Where is the industry on that?

KRISTIN SIEMEN: Yeah, I mean, so, again, from a General Motors perspective, we're committed to have products across every price point and segment. We have today the very affordable Bolt EV and SUV that are under $30,000. We just introduced last week or revealed the Chevrolet Equinox, which, again, is a $30,000 family-sized SUV in the largest segment of vehicles available. So that price point and affordability is extremely important.

And really getting everybody access-- we talk about infrastructure, and it's one of those you can't wait. When the automobile first came on board, there wasn't a gas station on every corner. So although we can't make this transition alone, GM is really committed to provide support and be part of the solution for the infrastructure as well.

We announced a commitment or a collaboration we have with Pilot and Flying J, which is installing DC fast chargers across the US and really showing that everyone can live in an EV world. And from an equitable standpoint, we're looking, too, to make sure that infrastructure access is just as important as EV access and that communities really have that availability across the board.

AKIKO FUJITA: Finally, on the demand part that Ines talked about, we have seen the demand go up because gas prices have been so high. And yet there's also some more recent data that's come out that along with the pullback in prices, the interest has waned a bit. We're still at 5% EV adoption in the US. Can that momentum continue, even with gas prices lower?

KRISTIN SIEMEN: I think so. I mean, products are exciting. And when you see the new products that we're introducing, everything from the Equinox that I mentioned to the Cadillac LYRIQ, the Silverado EV, they're amazing products. Once you drive an EV and feel that instant acceleration and the flexibility and convenience that it provides, it's really hard to go back.

AKIKO FUJITA: We'll be watching.

KRISTIN SIEMEN: All right.

AKIKO FUJITA: Kristin Siemen, chief sustainability officer at GM, good to have you in.

KRISTIN SIEMEN: Thank you so much for having me.