Sustainability 2011/12

Climate Change and the Environment

Sustainable Materials

Materials are an important element of a vehicle’s lifecycle sustainability. Choices about materials can influence the safety, fuel economy and performance of the vehicle itself, as well as the ability to recycle or reuse the vehicle’s components at the end of its life. Material choices can also have implications throughout our value chain. A material can be more or less sustainable based on a number of factors, including its origin (virgin, renewable or recycled), the resources and manufacturing methods used, the emissions produced throughout its lifecycle, and its application.

Ford has been working for many years to increase the use of recycled and renewable materials and reduce the use of undesirable materials. Vehicles in North America typically are composed of 20 to 25 percent post-consumer recycled material by weight, primarily due to the extensive use of metals with recycled content (see What is in a Vehicle? for detail). Therefore, Ford has concentrated its efforts on developing new uses for recycled materials in the nonmetallic portions of the vehicle, which are typically composed of virgin materials. While the amount of recycled content in each vehicle varies, we are continuously increasing the amount of recycled material used in each vehicle line and have implemented a number of innovative uses of sustainable materials (see Choosing More Sustainable Materials). As described in the section on Design for Lifecycle Sustainability, we use tools such as Design for Sustainability, lifecycle assessment and lifecycle costing to help us make beneficial materials choices.

For many years, Ford has had a Voluntary Recycled Content Usage Policy in North America, which sets goals for the use of nonmetallic recycled content for each vehicle and increases those targets year by year and model by model. Under this program, recycled materials are selected for all of our vehicles whenever technically and economically feasible. We are now developing sustainable materials requirements for new vehicle programs and significantly refreshed vehicle lines to increase the recycled and renewable content, and we are developing specific, numerical, model-over-model improvement targets.

We are also continuing to migrate successful applications of recycled and renewable content across more vehicles for increased environmental benefit. We are focusing on materials technologies that improve environmental and social performance and reduce costs and weight. To facilitate this, we are working with our commodity business planners, materials purchasers and materials engineers to develop a comprehensive list of cost-effective sustainable materials that can be implemented across multiple parts and vehicle lines. All recycled and renewable materials on this list are evaluated versus comparable virgin grades, to guarantee appropriate physical properties and the same level of component performance that would be obtained with virgin materials. By combining sustainable materials goals for updated or redesigned vehicles with sustainable materials identification and testing processes, we are standardizing and broadening the use of sustainable materials in our vehicles.

As we introduce sustainable materials, we are conscious that recycled materials are not always the preferable solution. For example, we take into consideration whether recycled materials may increase weight or have significant energy demand in collection or recycling. We also consider the availability of a local recycled material feedstock versus the need for a global commonality of materials. Our global materials strategy has dramatically reduced the number of materials we specify and use, to enable quality and cost reductions. In some cases, the introduction of recycled and renewable materials will run counter to that commonization progress, since the feedstocks for these materials can vary by region. For example, it is often more efficient to use local waste materials that divert waste from local landfills, than to ship waste material inputs across the globe. We are working to ensure that we use local materials as a feedstock for our recycled content materials.

Developing and Implementing Our Sustainable Materials Strategy

As our approach to sustainable materials continues to evolve, we are developing and implementing an integrated sustainable materials strategy. Progress on this effort includes the following:

Building on our process for Restricted Substance Management: For many years, Ford has had a Restricted Substance Management Standard (RSMS), which was developed to reduce and eliminate the use of substances of concern from our vehicles and plants. The first of its kind in the industry, this standard was originally developed to address both regulated substances and materials Ford voluntarily chose to eliminate from our vehicles and plants. The RSMS system is embedded in Ford’s Global Product Development System, our company-wide vehicle design and production system. We are using the same RSMS process to manage recycled and renewable materials targets and requirements in our product development system.

Developing guiding principles for incorporating recycled and renewable materials in our vehicles: We have formed a cross-functional and globally integrated sustainable materials council to guide sustainable materials strategy for the Company. This informal team has developed a set of guiding principles to help us think through materials choices. These principles, listed below, reflect our collective thinking on the most effective ways to increase the use of recycled and renewable materials in our vehicles:

  • Recycled and renewable materials will be selected whenever technically and economically feasible.
  • Recycled and renewable content will be increased year over year, model by model, consistent with EU 2003 End Of Vehicle Life Regulations.
  • Product quality, durability, weight, performance (material specification and/or part design verification) and economics will not be adversely impacted by the use of recycled and renewable content materials.
  • Tools and enablers will be provided to select, specify, track and validate the use of recycled and renewable materials.
  • Recommended recycled and renewable materials will have a known and documented “positive lifecycle” impact.
  • Recycled materials will be used in the market of origin, to minimize the carbon footprint.
  • Renewable content sourcing shall not compete with the food supply. Sustainable supply must be ensured (in terms of stable supply and sustainable growing).

Integrating recycled and renewable materials into the official strategies that govern materials and commodities purchasing: We are developing global materials specifications, which will facilitate the incorporation of sustainable materials where they meet performance requirements. Such specifications will also ensure that the benefits of more sustainable materials will have a global impact. So, for example, recycled material specifications will be included in the same documents that specify virgin materials. This will simplify the monitoring of recycled content use in our vehicles and will ensure that component engineers and Tier 1 suppliers are confident in the performance of the recycled material, by means of a direct comparison with an equivalent virgin material.

Many commodity purchasing plans already list recycled-content materials as a preferred material option, including those for battery trays, battery shields and wheel arch liners. In addition, we developed a comprehensive resin strategy that requires the use of recycled plastics for underbody and aerodynamic shields, fender liners, splash shields, stone pecking cuffs and radiator air deflector shields manufactured in North America.

We have also developed a material specification that defines post-consumer, post-industrial and depolymerized recycled content and ensures that the use of in-house scrap is not counted toward recycling targets. We have a material specification for recycled content textiles and are working on specifications for renewable materials. These specifications make it easier for vehicle engineers to choose sustainable material options.