Product, Service & Design Innovation
Ford Leaders Discuss New Sustainability Report, Environmental Achievements, Smart Mobility

On Wednesday, Ford Motor Company released its 16th annual sustainability report, highlighting progress to reduce its environmental impacts and to innovate “smart mobility” models that accommodate growing interest in alternatives to vehicle ownership and crowded cities.

Notable successes in 2014 included:

  • Improved fuel economy of its fleet to 30.1 mpg
  • Trained nearly 3,000 suppliers on sustainability management since 2005
  • Reduced water use per vehicle to less than 4 gallons;
  • Reduced CO2 emissions per vehicle to .76 mt from .78 mt

The company also achieved zero waste-to-landfill at its Hermosillo Stamping and Assembly Plant in Mexico, joining 27 other Ford facilities worldwide that have met this goal. The company is now landfill-free at all of its Mexican manufacturing facilities, and diverts a total of 1.5 million pounds of landfill waste throughout the country each year.

“Ford is proud that all of its manufacturing facilities in Mexico are sending zero waste to landfills,” said Andy Hobbs, Director of the Ford Environmental Quality Office. “We are decreasing our global environmental footprint while maintaining world-class manufacturing systems.”

Also on Wednesday, in a webinar hosted by Sustainable Brands, Ford company leaders discussed details of its sustainability milestones; their vision for transforming mobility with electric vehicles, car sharing, and new technologies; and how to scale sustainability at a global level.

Megatrends and Renewable Energy

Ford’s core sustainability strategy is a “science-based approach,” John Viera, Global Director of Sustainability and Vehicle Environmental Matters at Ford, said during the webinar. The company is doing its part to stabilize the climate at 450 ppm of CO2, he said.

Viera continued by outlining five “megatrends” that motivate Ford’s sustainability approach:

  1. Urbanization. “We want to be part of the solution of how we move people and goods in the future,” Viera said, noting the expectation that in 2030 there will be 41 megacities worldwide and that two-thirds of all people will live in urban areas. Today’s infrastructure can’t accommodate the number of vehicles projected to be on the road, he said.
  2. Growing Middle Class. According to The Brookings Institution, the global middle class will double in size by 2030, reaching 4 billion. City infrastructure and vehicle technology must adapt as this population aspires to own cars. “We think about, ‘Are we coming up with creative solutions to move that middle class?’” Viera said.
  3. Air Quality. “We want to continuously be driving down the emissions from our vehicles, and to encourage other organizations and sectors to do the same thing,” Viera said. Despite strides to improve air quality, severe challenges relating to health and air quality will exist in developing nations, according to the World Health Organization.
  4. Changing Consumer Attitudes: A growing segment of Ford’s market isn’t interested in personal mobility, suggesting car-sharing models will be an important part of future transportation.
  5. Limited Resources: Companies will be challenged to find innovative ways to address the impacts of energy and water use, while accommodating increasing demand for raw materials.

Viera also provided updates on Ford’s approach to renewable energy and electric vehicles. “We continue to focus on, ‘what is the art of the possible?’ with regard to renewable energy?” he said. As examples of Ford’s progress, Viera highlighted the company’s construction of the largest solar array in Michigan at its World Headquarters, and two initiatives that enable sustainable lifestyles for consumers: its “My Energi Lifestyle” program and its Drive Green For Life program in partnership with SunPower and the Sierra Club.

Smart Mobility

Ken Washington, VP of Research and Advanced Engineering, then spoke about Ford’s plan to “use innovations to find smarter ways to move.” Washington described the 25 mobility experiments Ford conducted across the globe to “ease some of the pain points” around urban mobility, including methods to reduce congestion and encourage car sharing. “The way people think about their cars is changing,” Washington said.

Washington offered two examples of Ford initiatives around mobility:

  1. GoDrive cars, which provide public and private access to a fleet of cars, including zero-emission vehicles, on one-way journeys. Customers can use their smartphones to reserve and access vehicles nearby.
  2. Parking Spotter, an app that leverages driver-assist sensors to search for open parking spaces, reducing both the time to park and fuel consumption.

Challenges

Chris Guenther, Director of Research at SustainAbility, directed questions from webinar participants to Washington and Viera, such as: What challenges has Ford faced in coordinating and achieving its sustainability goals?

“We laid out a compelling vision,” Washington said — one that connected sustainability objectives to the goals of other teams. “We couldn’t do the GoDrive experiment without the help of our IT team,” he explained. He emphasized the importance of creating multidisciplinary teams — from the designers to product developers — in order to address sustainability challenges.

Viera echoed the importance of an integrated approach. “Sustainability can’t be viewed as a separate initiative,” he said. “It has to be a part of every team’s core objectives.”

In conclusion, Viera added that Ford’s approach is still evolving. “We always talk about sustainability being a journey. We’re not done,” he said.

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