Thursday, April 21, 2011

Earth Day Event at Detroit Institute for the Arts--a MacGuffin for examining Ford's sustainabilty report

Detroit Where the Weak are Killed and EatenApril2011Badgenablo0910_120x90

One more Earth Day event to promote blog about.

Detroit Earth Day 2011: Practical Sustainability
Thursday, April 21, 2011 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM (Eastern Time)
Detroit Institute of Arts
5200 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48202

My neighbor is both an environmentalist and a member of the DIA. I wonder if she's going. I'll ask her tomorrow.

Join with Grand River Printing & Imaging at the Detroit Institute of Arts on April 21st from 8:00am to noon to learn practical ways to reduce, reuse and recycle ... and reap rewards.

This year our speaker is Andy Acho, environmental initiative expert and former Worldwide Director of Environmental Strategy and Outreach at Ford Motor Company. At 9:30am in the DIA Lecture Hall, Andy will be sharing some of his experiences and best-practices at the corporate level that demonstrate how being environmentally sustainable is also about good business.
Suddenly, this topic looks a lot more interesting. Time to do to Ford what I did to Walmart--examine their sustainbility pages.

2009/10 Sustainability Report

Ford Motor Company has published its 11th annual non-financial report, entitled Blueprint for Sustainability - The Future at Work.

Our vision is for our sustainability reporting to demonstrate our values, as well as to reflect and drive outstanding economic, environmental and social performance.
In two paragraphs, Ford already looks better than Walmart. If nothing else, they talk about values and society in addition to touting how their actions are good for both the environment and the bottom line. Of course, that's just the exterior. How do things look under the hood?

"This is one of the most exciting times in our industry since mass automobile production began more than a century ago. New technologies are radically transforming some of the most fundamental and enduring elements of the automobile. The companies that lead these changes will create new 'green' jobs and generate profits while reducing fuel use and CO2 emissions, benefiting both the economy and the environment."

Alan Mulally
President and Chief Executive Officer
Another improvement over Walmart's page--this message is coming directly from the top. I don't recall anyone's name on the Walmart sustainablity page, let alone someone high up in the company. Just the same, it looks like I've opened the driver's side door, not the hood. At least I'm inside the vehicle. So, what is there to see here?

Climate Change: Ford has developed a comprehensive, science-based global strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
As an environmental scientist, this is music to my ears, although I know the devil's in the details. I'll leave those to another post.

Mobility: Our goal is to make mobility affordable in every sense of the word – economically, environmentally and socially
Ford really is talking a good game here. Just the same, this is exactly the message that Ford should be talking about if they want to manufacture cars sustainably. I'll tackle whether doing so is even possible some other time; right now I just want to enjoy being spun.

Human Rights: We believe that people are most likely to excel in an environment that aims for excellence.
This sentence is boilerplate, but it's exactly the kind of boilerplate any company should be cladding their reports in. As an advocate for unions, I'm encouraged. On the other hand, it could make a much stronger stand for human rights. Right now, it's merely a statement about human capital, which is not the same thing.

Vehicle Safety: Vehicle safety is one of the key principles that informs and guides Ford's every design and engineering effort.
Nice, but I don't know what this is doing in a sustainablity report. Maybe it fits under a statement of values. Honestly, I prefer one of their older slogans--Quality is Job 1.

Sustaining Ford: Despite the economic crisis and unprecedented downturn in automotive sales globally, Ford posted its first full year of positive net income since 2005.
I thought this was supposed to be a non-financial report? Even so, I can handle this as a statement of commitment to economic sustainability. Besides, it is good news, as this report is mostly for 2009, when the economy contracted for the first half of the year.

I never did get under the hood, but that's OK. I'm actually impressed. Even if it's nothing but corporate PR, it's very good corporate PR, and much better than what Walmart has. I can tell that Ford is playing offense, while Walmart is playing defense. That's a stronger position to be in.

There's a lot more to examine, but I'll save that for another time. It's late.

Happy Earth Day!

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