Ford on the Right Track With Sustainability Efforts

By John Gartner – Matter Network

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Ford Motor Company has been newsworthy recently as much for what it’s not doing as what it is. The auto giant has been the only one of the big three not in bankruptcy or asking for bailout funds, and its products are also not emitting as many greenhouse gases as before.

The company’s Sustainability Report, released Monday, show gains made in fleet-wide fuel economy (up from 25.3 in 2007 to 26.0 in 2008) as well as a reduction in CO2 emissions per mile, which fell by 3.4 percent. Those gains were in part due to the introduction of two new hybrid sedans, the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan, which each get 41 mpg in the city. Ford is also accelerating plans for plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles, with the first models being rolled out starting next year.

Ford’s most significant improvement in sustainability came from reducing use of a liquid other than petroleum — water. Ford’s global water use dropped by 24 percent globally last year, thanks in part to a new parts washing system that eliminates an oily wastewater stream and reduces overall wastewater by 95 percent.

The company was candid about its model lineup in the sustainability report, stating that “In the past we allowed our portfolio to become too dependent on popular and profitable trucks and SUVs, missing opportunities to advance production of small and midsize cars.”

Ford says it will make more small cars and do an economic u-turn, making them into a profit center instead of a loss leader. Ford hopes to outpace the rising CAFE standards for fuel economy by introducing its EcoBoost technology, which can increase fuel economy by up to 20 percent, in three models this year.

However, Ford went into reverse in one important metric: the energy efficiency of its facilities. After dropping in both CO2 emissions per vehicle produced and energy consumption per vehicle in 2007, both figures actually rose to near 2006 levels. The company said it improved the energy efficiency in North America by4.5 percent, so international operations must have dropped much more sharply. That’s not acceptable for a company that needs to reduce costs and polish its green image.

Finally, during 2008, Ford joined the United Nations Global Compact, a “policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption,” according to the U.N. Ford claims to be the only manufacturing company participating in the UNGC’s Human Rights Working Group, a laudable achievement.

While most of the focus has been on the auto industry’s financial health and job losses, companies such as Ford are simultaneously becoming more sustainable, which is equally important.

John Gartner is Editor-in-Chief of Matter Network and an Industry Analyst for Pike Research

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