New Ford focus? Automaker says sustainability is Job One

New Ford focus? Automaker says sustainability is Job One

It's news when one of America's trademark industrial sectors begins to crow about its sustainability efforts. But it's even more eyebrow-raising when one of the Big Three automakers says sustainability, to steal from one of Ford's own slogans, is now Job One.

In its recently released 13th annual sustainability report, Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) said it has radically cut the energy used in its vehicle manfacturing process by 22 percent over the last six years. Ford also plans to further reduce that energy usage by another 25 percent, on a per-vehicle basis, by 2016.

The company's global director of sustainability and vehicle environmental matters, John Viera, tells GreenBiz the issue of sustainability "has moved from the periphery to the center of our strategy for succeeding in the marketplace and helping to address global challenges.We understand that business practices focused on energy efficiency, sustainable materials, human rights and consumer safety are the key to the continued growth of our company and quality of life worldwide."

In announcing its report, Ford said the amount of electrical consumption used in vehicle production at its manfacturing facilities was reduced by about 800 kilowatt-hours (kwh) last year. In comparison, the company says, average households in some of the most populated U.S. states -- like Michigan, Illinois, California and New York -- can use up to 799 kwh per month.

Ford's progress has reportedly been achieved by investing in energy-saving practices and equipment. The automaker has a new, "three-wet" painting process that reduces both electricity and emissions of C02 and volative organic compounds. It installed a 500-kilowatt solar panel system at its Wayne, Mich. plant, to create renewable energy during production of  vehicles like the Focus and Focus Electric. And at its Buffalo stamping plant, a new LED lighting system is saving about 700 watts per fixture.

In terms of waste, Ford cut the amount it sent to landfills by 11.3 percent in 2011 from 2010. It also sliced overall CO2 emissions from its global operations, on a per-vehicle basis, by 8 percent last year.

And along with production, there are radical changes involving the product itself. The billions Ford has spent in research and development on fuel-efficient and electrified vehicles have brought about some interesting results:

  • This year, one-third of Ford vehicle lines offer a model featuring 40 mpg fuel efficiency or better.
  • The company expects its 2013 Fusion Hybrid to be "the world's most fuel-efficient non-rechargable midsize sedan," at 47 mpg.
  • Ford's 2013 Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, another midsize sedan, will have a projected 100 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (MPGe) rating.
  • The company's new gas-turbo, direct-injection engines reduce CO2 emissions by up to 15 percent, with up to 20 percent greater fuel economy. That direct injection and turbo-charging allows Ford to use smaller engine blocks. The EcoBoost 6-cylinder engine, said Viera, "can produce power like a V-8 [and] a four-cylinder EcoBoost engine performs like a V-6." Ford expects to produce about 1.5 million EcoBoost engines next year -- and to offer them in 90 percent of its North American models.

“Our sustainability report is far from a bunch of tables and charts,” said Viera last week. “Anyone who spends any amount of time with it will truly get a sense of just how committed Ford is to supporting positive change and reducing the environmental impact of  its products and facilities.”

Photo of green car by Eduard Härkönen via Shutterstock.