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Ford is investing billions in sustainability for the long term

Ford is investing billions in sustainability for the long term

John Cangany and Nicole DesNoyer talk about a zero-waste tradition dating back to founder Henry Ford, electric vehicles, and cover sustainable printing for Ford’s annual financial report.

In our “Conversations with Green Champions,” Rolland President Philip Rundle asks sustainability-minded organizations about their approach to environmental responsibility.

In this interview, John Cangany, Corporate Social Responsibility Communications Manager at Ford, talks about a zero-waste tradition dating back to founder Henry Ford, electric vehicles, human rights and sustainable manufacturing. Nicole DesNoyer, Group Production Manager at GTB, one of Ford’s communications agencies, covers sustainable printing for Ford’s annual financial report, and how Rolland’s recycled paper answered Ford’s needs.

Ford is focusing on mobility solutions and sustainable manufacturing to chart an electrified course for the future

  • Ford is investing $11 billion through 2022 to have 16 fully electric vehicles within a global portfolio of 40 electrified vehicles including hybrids.
  • Manufacturing plants hit a major GHG milestone last year, eight years ahead of the original 2025 target, reducing CO2 emissions per Ford vehicle produced by 30 per cent compared to 2010.
  • 2017 was Ford’s eighth consecutive year as the best-selling automotive brand in the United States, so it is building on strength.

How does Ford look at sustainability today? How do you make that a company-wide priority?

JC: Ford’s ultimate goal is to move from reducing our footprint to making a positive impact on the world around us. This comes after 20 years of tremendous progress reducing our footprint.  Making this a priority starts with Executive Chairman Bill Ford, who leads the way on sustainability. It has been a core value since Henry Ford’s day, even when the term ‘environmentalist’ wasn’t used, because he did not want anything to go to waste. Ford is much the same today: 85 of our facilities worldwide are true zero waste to landfill operations.

Bill Ford has described climate change and mobility as human rights issues. How is that mindset helping Ford be part of the solution?

JC: We are looking beyond making and selling vehicles to how connectivity and autonomous vehicles, ride sharing, dynamic shuttles (six to eight passengers in a van with a common general destination) and public transit – as well as cars, trucks and SUVs – can work together and allow people to move safely and efficiently. The goal is reducing congestion and emissions while improving people’s ability to get to work, to the doctor or to school – all of which improves the human condition.

How will Ford’s $11 billion investment in electrification reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

JC: Tailpipe emissions are the biggest part of our environmental footprint, so electrification will help customers improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. We look at sustainability in the broad sense: contributing to progress and continuing to reduce our footprint, while remaining competitive and profitable by delivering great vehicles that provide what customers like – performance, reliability, technology and capability.

How does Ford make sustainable manufacturing the norm?

JC: Today 85 Ford facilities, including more than 60 manufacturing plants, are true zero waste to landfill operations. At Ford, zero means zero – not a piece of cardboard or aluminum goes to landfill. We are also leaders with water usage. Since 2000, Ford has reduced water usage at manufacturing operations by more than 10 billion gallons. Roughly, for every gallon of water Ford used in 2000, we will use about one liter by 2020. If we can reduce resource usage and maintain product quality, Ford’s Environmental Quality Office is all for it. Vehicle paint is a good example. We’ve developed ways to apply all the coats of paint together, then heat drying all at once, rather than doing it layer by layer. This saves lots of water and energy. Small things matter, too. Swapping traditional lightbulbs for LEDs saves a lot of energy considering the scale and number of our facilities.

How does Ford work with suppliers to address sustainability goals?

JC: The best example is PACE (Partnership for A Cleaner Environment) Program. We share some 350 of our best practices – across energy reduction, CO2 emission reduction, other particulate emission reductions, water savings and human rights – with our key suppliers. They like it because they get trained on best practices and are given the chance to implement improvements on environmental and social sustainability areas of their business and operations. PACE training started in 2015, and our best practices have been implemented by more than 50 suppliers. We encourage them to share these practices down their supply chains so we collectively multiply our positive impacts.

What is Ford’s progress with vehicle components made from renewables, like soy beans?

JC: We introduced soy-based seat foams with the 2008 Mustang, moving away from only fossil-fuel based foam. Since 2011 we have used soy-based seat foams, seat backs and headrests in every Ford made in North America – more than 18.5 million vehicles. This is our largest use of renewables on vehicles, and it has reduced CO2 emissions by more than 228 million pounds, but is only one example of ways we are implementing more sustainable materials into our vehicles We also use components based on other renewables (wheat, rice and coconut, among others) and experiment with others. In 2016, we started working with Jose Cuervo to see if we could use their castoff agave fibers, and have also worked with Heinz on castoff tomato stems and seeds. Additionally, we implement recycled materials wherever possible. On several vehicles, the seat fabric is made from recycled water bottles and other post-consumer waste. F-150 manufacturing has a closed loop aluminum recycling process, saving up to 20 million pounds of aluminum scrap per month, which is enough aluminum to build more than 37,000 F-Series truck bodies a month.

How has publishing an annual sustainability report changed Ford?

JC: We just published our 19th consecutive sustainability report tracking our progress. We take it seriously, being honest about what we are doing well, and about what we are not doing well and need to improve. The report is critically important because it maintains a sense of transparency about the business and our impact on the environment, year over year. With Bill Ford championing the report, it helps us underline the importance of transparency with stakeholders inside and outside the company. On the back of the report we publish a scorecard of our sustainability performance so everyone knows how we did for the year across key metrics.  Most metrics improve, some decline, but we always publish that scorecard. 

As a paper manufacturer, we have to ask: What is the role of print in Ford’s annual reports?

ND: A portion of registered shareholders have asked for printed copies of the annual financial and sustainability reports, so we are answering that need. These are large documents, so there is a lot to read in a digital format, and the desire for print is understandable. Materials related to proxy voting are also easier to manage in print form for many shareholders. We also work to be as sustainable as possible with any related shipping materials and envelopes, because mailing is part of the environmental impact.  

How is Ford using Rolland paper?

ND: For Ford’s 2017 annual financial report, the 10-K section and proxy documents were printed on Rolland Opaque, with 30 per cent post-consumer content. We aim for at least 10 per cent post-consumer content on large Ford print jobs, and 30 per cent on most, so this was ideal. Those documents called for a lightweight stock with the opacity to hold up to a lot of content, printed on a high-volume web press running at high speeds. And Rolland’s product performed well. We like Rolland’s environmental commitment and history of reliability, its manufacturing process for recycled paper, and its high-quality post-consumer content. Rolland is also FSC-certified.1

Do you see Ford as a green champion? 

JC: We’ve accomplished a lot but know there is more to do, so we are getting there. Making a positive impact has been a priority for the company, going back 115 years. That includes the $5 a day wage, the affordability of the Model T which made so many people mobile, and Henry Ford’s belief that nothing should go to waste.

Click here for Rolland’s graphic overview of the manufacturing process for recycled paper, from recycling bins to finished products.

Click here for insights into responsible paper procurement from other sustainability-minded Green Champions.

1 Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) is an international certification and labeling system dedicated to promoting responsible forest management of the world’s forests.

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