Event Review

Ford’s Journey to Sustainability and Beneficial Use at June Member Meeting


Attendees at the June monthly luncheon meeting, presented by Warner, Norcross and Judd, had the opportunity to hear about sustainability issues and solutions from two quite different perspectives last week.

Held at the University Club on June 23, featured speakers at the meeting included Ford Motor Co. Global Director Of Sustainability John Viera, who presented on Ford’s path to sustainability from a triple-bottom-line perspective. Troy Cummings of Warner, Norcross and Judd also spoke about the development of the Michigan Beneficial Use Reform act, which will allow for certain industrial waste to be utilized in new applications instead of disposal.

Cummings began the afternoon’s presentations with a brief outline of the industrial waste problem facing Michigan, and the solutions outlined in the Michigan Beneficial Use Reform Act. “There are a lot of industrial byproducts that are created in the state of Michigan. A lot of those can be reused for a lot of things and in fact have been in the state of Michigan,” he said. “The problem is, this has always been done on an ad-hoc basis. This policy has been in the works for the past 20 years.”

Whereas other states implemented solid waste re-use policies and programs decades ago, Michigan only began the process in June 2012, with the bills signed into law on June 10. Cummings stated that under the new regulations,many of these industrial wastes can be put to use in various construction and agricultural projects without going through a lengthy approval process as long as they are not hazardous materials and are used within specified limits.

Viera took a broader look on sustainable practices in his presentation, which discussed Ford’s efforts to adhere to a triple bottom line framework. Viera was quick to highlight Ford’s need to expand the company’s sustainability efforts globally while still making a profit. “Doing good has to reach out beyond the company to be truly, globally sustainable,” he said.

On the environmental front, Viera highlighted Ford’s near-, mid-, and long-term goals for designing more energy efficient and alternative energy vehicles. In the near term, Ford is working to sell smaller, more efficient vehicles that release far fewer emissions than large cars and trucks, especially in developing markets such as India. “When you think about our footprint in the future, it’s a footprint that’s going to rely on smaller vehicles. The good news is, those have smaller CO2 emissions so that’s going to help us meet our sustainability goals,” Viera said.

Moving beyond simply designing more energy efficient vehicles, Viera said that designing and promoting electrified vehicles are a current sustainability goal for the company—a step away from traditional gas-powered vehicles. Advances in manufacturing are also allowing Ford to build new vehicles with new, sustainable materials that repurpose industrial waste from various waste streams—for example, automobile carpet padding made from scrap denim fibers.

“We want to be doing more of that as it relates to sustainable materials,” said Viera. “We want to get to the point that says, ‘We don’t take any virgin materials out of the earth when we produce our vehicles.’ We want to use all recycled content or we want to use plant-based content that you can grow continuously.”

In addition to these advances, Viera highlighted collaboration efforts between Ford with West Michigan-based Whirlpool and other national sustainable home product manufacturers to make energy efficient living easier for homeowners. “I think that, combining with other companies you really have a multiplier effect on what you do from an environmental standpoint,” he said. Viera also reminded members to consider the social impact of global business, noting Ford’s connectivity and logistics assistance in providing essential medical care in India.

“Don’t forget about the social piece of sustainability when you talk about sustainability,” he said. “Your companies could have an impact on global communities. I just encourage you to utilize your skills and your people for that.”

Presenter gifts were provided by WMSBF Members Barfly Ventures and Clothing Matters.

View Viera’s presentation here.

For information on and registration details for the July monthly meeting, click here.  


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