The Motley Fool Corporate Responsibility Spotlight: General Electric

Dec 19, 2012 6:00 AM ET

General Electric (NYSE: GE) is one of the world's largest and most respected companies. From appliances to energy, aviation to finance, this appropriately named conglomerate is one whose reach you might have trouble escaping. The deep-rooted company is the only member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average index that remains from the original 12 in 1896, and it's practically become a symbol for American ingenuity. While many think of it as a diverse manufacturer of all sorts of products, it has constantly adapted to an evolving marketplace, and it now derives more than half of its revenue from its financial services arm.

GE has acquired its fair share of corporate accolades recently, ranking sixth on Interbrand's list of Best Global Brands and 24th on the list of Best Global Green Brands, as well as making Ethisphere's 2011 list of the world's most ethical companies. But does the company's storied history qualify it to be a socially responsible company? And how does a socially responsible investor reconcile the company's extensive history of pollution, weapons manufacture, and controversial nuclear power with a growing commitment to alternative energy?

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