Think one company can't make a difference? GE Real Estate begs to differ. In November, the Norwalk, Conn.-based firm launched a major initiative to green its entire apartment and commercial property portfolio. GE will evaluate its current holdings and invest in green retrofits and upgrades where it makes financial sense, as well as green its acquisitions going forward. The effort is bound to have a big impact—the firm generates more than $30 billion in annual transaction volume across 28 countries.

“We have been going green on an ad hoc basis for several years now,” says Jonathan Kern, GE's global chief investment officer. “What is new and important for an organization of our size and scale is that we said it's not enough to do this on an ad hoc basis.”

GE's green commitment includes a partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative, a program launched in August 2006 by The Clinton Foundation to work with major cities and members of the business community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in large urban areas.

The firm will focus on retrofitting buildings, since 90 percent of the company's portfolio consists of acquired assets. The green retrofits will include everything from swapping light bulbs to overhauling HVAC systems. “If you look at the world of real estate, we build 1 percent or 2 percent a year compared to what's already in place. So obviously, the opportunity is much, much greater for buildings that are in place,” Kern says.

GE plans to share its findings to show that going green—while earning green—is possible.