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Ford Focuses on Sustainability

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Justin Pritchard
The time when a large automaker could simply live for the here and now is long gone. In today's increasingly global business environment, social responsibility and environmental respect take as important a stance as a company's bottom line. What was once a vague set of social, ethical and environmental concerns amongst many companies has now been grouped into a single category.

Sustainability, it's called. Basically, it means attention to minimizing negative impact on social or environmental structures with the goal of ensuring the longevity of the company's operations in the process. From what was once a set of issues often brushed under the rug, sustainable practices have evolved into an important facet in the business models of the worlds leading companies.

A variety of problems have brought attention to the topic in past years. Global warming, sweat-shops, pollution and working conditions seem to have sparked recent interest in adopting sustainable business practices.

Ford has been incorporating sustainability into its business for the past 5 years, and has now made it a long term strategic priority which will serve as a base for all major projects and programs. President and CEO Bill Ford explains.

"The reason is simple. We're a 100-year old company, and we want to become a 200-year old company".

One common example is how Ford's Materials, Planning and Logistics engineers created a plastic shipping container which is recycled into a splash shield in the F-150 pickup truck. The container eliminates cardboard, reduces greenhouse gases, and is easier for factory workers to use. It also saves up to 25 percent in shipping costs. This is sustainability in action- utilizing practices that have positive benefits throughout as much of the company and other stakeholders as possible. Many more examples exist.

Already a leader in environmental responsibility and global workforce practices, Ford now builds sustainability right into the very design of its vehicles. The idea is to make sustainable products that are environmentally and socially friendly, and ones that customers want to buy. The process begins at the very earliest stages of design and carries on through to the final product. With research showing that consumers place increased brand value on sustainable companies, Ford is already in an ideal position to take advantage this growing trend.

Leaders in the business community will all vouch for the importance of environmental and social responsibility, while those working in Wall Street often advise that businesses which adopt sustainability will be more profitable and stable.

Like any major shift in business thinking, it isn't without its setbacks. After joining seven other automotive companies for a study sponsored by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, some key challenges were identified. These included climate change, changing safety concerns, noise, congestion and the mobility "divide" between the rich and poor.

Despite these potential barriers, Ford's history as an innovator leaves little doubt that they will be able to adapt and thrive as they have for the past 100 years.
Justin Pritchard
Justin Pritchard
Automotive expert