Ford Executive Defends Sustainability, Diversity Efforts

Ford is pursuing its sustainability targets in part by investing $50 million in electrifying its product line, says Bob Holycross, vice president for sustainability.

Joseph Szczesny

March 20, 2023

3 Min Read
Ford F-150 gas-electric screenshot
Profits from ICE F-150 help fund electrification projects such as F-150 Lightning.Ford

ESG (environmental, social and governance) concerns have been in the headlines of late as conservative lawmakers criticize businesses for advocating a “woke” approach to climate change and diversity.

Republican-led legislatures around the country say they are fighting the influence of liberal activists in executive suites and boardrooms. Business groups have begun to fight back, noting many of practices criticized as “woke” help mitigate various risks in any kind of investment.

Bob Holycross, Ford vice president for sustainability, says the automaker endorses ESG policies.

ESG is a source of stability and a way to enforce standards that apply to Ford’s suppliers and partners, minimizing risks to the automaker’s sprawling enterprise, Holycross (pictured, below left) says during a conference on ESG organized by Deutsche Bank.

“We’re so excited at Ford about the journey we have been on. We are going to celebrate our 120-year anniversary this year. Sustainability and ESG are all about how we’re going to be around for the next 120 years or more,” he says.

Bob Holycross - Ford.jpg

Bob Holycross - Ford

Holycross acknowledges politics can come into play at times, but Ford’s goal is stability. “Our commitment is going to remain consistent, and we’re going to use the leverage of our brand to help shape those policies and make sure that we do have the stability and the confidence in standards around the world, whether that’s in Europe or China or the U.S. (or) all working towards the same goal,” he says.

The need for compromise helped drive Ford’s decision to negotiate a deal on emissions standards with the state of California even as the Trump Admin. was attempting to roll back the standards.

“We do have our overarching goal to be carbon-neutral no later than 2050, which is consistent with the climate-based science,” Holycross notes. “And obviously, we’re not waiting until 2050. We have goals and specific targets that are science-based…our sustainability reporting will demonstrate exactly how we’re making progress.”

Ford is pursuing its sustainability targets in part by investing $50 million in electrifying its product line, Holycross says. “We started with our most iconic products, the F-150, the Mustang, our Transit commercial van. We’re on track for a run rate of over 600,000 EVs by the end of this year and 2 million by late 2026,” he says.

Holycross emphasizes Ford is not about to abandon its vehicles with internal-combustion engines. “There are continuing opportunities for CO2 reduction with these vehicles as well,” he says.

ICE vehicles are playing an important part in terms of funding Ford’s transition to electrification: “We have to keep them fresh and continually improving the fuel economy and CO2 (emissions) of those vehicles,” the executive says.

Ford also is keeping a close eye on suppliers, which will play a critical role in the EV transition.

“We know some of the challenges we’ve had with the supply chain,” Holycross says. “It’s just reinforced the importance of elements of vertical integration and where we bring things in-house and how we diversify our supply.”

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