Ford has released its 18th annual Sustainability Report, and its titled Creating a Future Where Everyone Moves Better. John Viera is the company’s director of global sustainability.
“When we talk about Ford as an auto company and moving people around, we think about the products we’re producing because people buy them to move around,” Viera says on Greening of the Great Lakes. “And we’re going to continue to do that; we’re not backing away from that.
“But we also need to think about the fact that many people don’t own vehicles and they still need to move around. From a Ford perspective, we think we have some really good solutions to move people around as well.”
Ford believes that climate change is real “and we need to do our share to mitigate its effects. In 2005 executive chairman William Clay Ford Jr. asked in our first Blueprint for Sustainability what we need to be doing with our products and our manufacturing facilities to lower the amount of CO2 that we’re putting out into the atmosphere.
“And we continue to be on that journey. We’re absolutely committed to doing our share in reducing the impact of climate change.”
Viera says for Ford it’s imperative that the company respects the fresh water resource, and “we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to reduce the amount of fresh water we’re using.”
Ford was the first automaker to join the Business Alliance for Water and Climate, a water security initiative that focuses companies on actively reducing the amount of water in their facilities, “and we’ve saved over 11 billion gallons of water in our plants over the last 18 years. That’s equal to about the amount of water that flows over Niagara Falls every four hours.
“And our ultimate goal is to not use any drinkable water at all in our facilities so that we’re basically reusing all of our water.”
Continuing to grow the electrification of Ford’s fleet is a major way the company is taking on the climate change challenge.
“When we think about the types of vehicles we’re going to be putting out now and in the future, we need to rely a lot less on vehicles that use fossil fuels and more on vehicles that use electricity or hydrogen. We have a lot of efforts going on in the electrification space.”
Mobility for a Better World is another section of this year’s report.
“Here in the United States and for most of us, we think about mobility as our personal-use vehicle. We own a vehicle, and that’s how we get around. But when you think globally in developing countries like China and India, people in those countries aren’t all going to have the ability to buy personal-use vehicles. They’re still going to have the need to move around and get where they need to go. And if they can’t own a vehicle, how are they going to get around?
“What we want to be able to do from a Ford perspective is think about what kind of service we can provide that will allow everybody to move around and be mobile, particularly those people who can’t own a vehicle.”
Connected vehicles will eliminate driver error, says Viera, and greatly reduce accidents. And autonomous vehicles bring another whole set of opportunities to move people around. And he adds that there are many “semi-autonomous” features on Ford’s vehicles now, like adaptive cruise control.
Sustainability has many meanings to many people and has almost become somewhat of a buzzword.
“I think about sustainability being three legs of a stool. There are the environmental, social, and business elements. Businesses are in the business of making money, and that’s very important. You’re not going to be around very long if you’re not making money on a continuous basis. But when we talk about the environmental and social aspects, true sustainability combines all three.
“So, yes, you want to be able to make money as a company. But you have to do it in an environmentally and socially responsible way.”
Despite the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, Viera reminds us that Mr. Ford said climate change is real back in 2005. “And he put Ford on a path to reduce the impact we have on climate. So whether the U.S. is in our out of the Paris Agreement, we’re going to continue on that path regardless. And we’re not slowing down.”
Viera shares his advice for young people who want to get involved in growing and evolving sustainability-related careers. And he talks about the broader impact Ford hopes to have on the environment and society “by going beyond the four walls of the company working aggressively with the company’s supply base.
“When you think about the footprint of our supply base – more than ten times the size of Ford – we’re able to share a lot of our best practices with our suppliers who are in turn sharing those best practices with their suppliers. You can see the multiplier effect that we can have by sharing our best practices with our supply base. And our suppliers have done a tremendous job picking up our initiatives and truly making a difference in their businesses and the businesses they interface with. We’re really proud of that.”
Greening of the Great Lakes airs inside MSU Today Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 94.5 FM and AM 870.