How Sustainable Are Ford Cars? A Life-Cycle Analysis

How Sustainable Are Ford Cars? A Life-Cycle Analysis

Eli Boles

Read Time:32 Minutes


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Ford is one of the most well-known American car brands in the world. Historically, they are most famous for Henry Ford’s innovation of the assembly line to build cars on mass. And today, they are still known for the large volume of cars they produce every year. While their traditional car image is one of diesel work trucks and V8 muscle cars, Ford also produces several fully electric and hybrid-electric vehicles. So we had to ask: How sustainable are Ford cars?

Ford cars are generally not very sustainable. Their manufacturing operations may pose serious hazards to the environment, and their actions have not been sufficient in combating climate change. However, Ford has introduced a limited number of electric vehicles and extensive aluminum recycling.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the life-cycle of Ford cars through material sourcing, manufacturing, their consumer usage, and their end-of-life. Then, we’ll evaluate their sustainability, and how this contrasts with their public messaging. Finally, we’ll show you tips for evaluating the sustainability of any car you may be thinking about buying, and how to make your current car more efficient.

Here’s How We Assessed the Sustainability of Ford Cars

In the last couple of decades, Ford has introduced smaller, more economical cars, and has even developed fully-electric cars that compete against the biggest names in the electric vehicles (EVs) industry. While these efforts are a step forward for the future, we know that the sustainability of a car is dependent on more than just tailpipe emissions, as many different stages of a car’s life can have a variety of negative effects on the planet.

Sustainable: The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level | Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”

Oxford Dictionary

It is vital for automakers like Ford to take up sustainable practices if we are to stand any chance of avoiding the worst potential effects of climate change and environmental damage. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the form of CO2 might be the most prominent polluters. But it is also important to consider the resources to produce Ford cars, their manufacturing, and their transportation networks and, finally, how our usage of Ford cars impacts our environment and local communities.

To understand the overall sustainability of Ford cars, we must assess their life-cycle and each stage’s sustainability. This life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a method to evaluate the environmental impacts of products and materials. Over the years, companies have strategically used LCA to research and create more sustainable products. So, let’s have a look at the LCA of Ford cars!

The life-cycle stages of Ford carsEach stage’s sustainability
Sourcing of materials and components for Ford carsThe materials and components in Ford cars are generally more sustainable than the industry average due to their closed-loop recycling and zero-landfill-waste programs for their aluminum and plastics. However, Ford’s limited supplier program means that they maintain high transport emissions to supply their international operations, and some vital materials for current EV models are not sustainable despite Ford’s best efforts.
Manufacturing of Ford carsThe manufacturing of Ford cars is only sustainable regarding their approach to waste management and aluminum recycling. In the US, the manufacture of Ford cars is powered by non-renewable energy and depends on traditional shipping methods to supply foreign markets. Recently, Ford’s burgeoning Chinese factories have been linked to exploitative labor conditions.
Transporting of Ford carsThe transportation of Ford cars to their point of sale is not very sustainable. Ford depends on cargo ships and over-the-road trucks to deliver their cars to dealerships, which are both major sources of air pollution. Ford’s usage of railway transport does make them slightly more sustainable than other manufacturers who do not.
Usage of Ford carsThe usage of Ford cars is generally not very sustainable. They tend to live shorter than average lives due to both below-average reliability, and above-average depreciation. While some of their cars are more sustainable than others, Ford cars are generally not circular products.
End-of-life of Ford carsThe end-of-life for Ford cars has the potential to be very sustainable due to their materials of choice, but their current actions are only somewhat sustainable as they are not recycling and reusing every part of the vehicle. 

As we can see from the LCA chart above, the life-cycle of a Ford car is not a simple process. There are many different materials and factories used that can result in direct and indirect environmental damage when not used responsibly. Below, we’ll dive into each one of these stages in detail to determine how sustainable a Ford car really is.

How Sustainable Is the Sourcing of Materials and Components for Ford Cars

The materials and components in Ford cars are generally more sustainable than the industry average due to their closed-loop recycling and zero-landfill-waste programs for aluminum and plastic. However, Ford’s limited supplier program means that they maintain high transport emissions to supply their international operations, and some vital materials for current EV models are not sustainable despite Ford’s best efforts. 

To assess the impact of an auto manufacturer, we need to look at all the parts that go into making a new car. Ford sells cars on every continent minus Antarctica, so any resource they rely on will be under considerable demand. Typically, this will include the metal used for the structure of the car, powertrain, and electrical components, as well as plastics or plant-based materials used for the interior surfaces. We took a look at what Ford specifically is using in their production, and how sustainable each of these materials is.

How Sustainable Are the Materials and Components Used for Ford Cars

Ford cars utilize materials that are more sustainable than the industry standard. Their use of recycled aluminum and plastics helps to greatly reduce their waste and carbon generation; however, Ford’s strategy depends on rare earth metals like cobalt that are not sustainable. 

A modern Ford car is roughly 75% metal and 17% plastic. Ford primarily utilizes aluminum in their chassis and engine construction, which differentiates them from some of their competitors. Ford also requires some specialized metals to sustain their ever-growing roster of Electric Vehicle (EV) models. Let’s take a look at how sustainably Ford sources their various materials. 

  • Aluminum: Aluminum is a very sustainable metal due to its ability to be effectively recycled endlessly, while only using 5% of the energy needed to obtain primary origin metal. Aluminum is also very naturally abundant, and weighs significantly less than steel which contributes to a lower carbon footprint when transported. Ford claims that they have achieved closed-loop recycling for their Aluminum, meaning that they recycle as much as possible from their manufacturing processes. 
  • Plastics: Plastics are used extensively in modern car design, and Ford is no different. These materials can cause significant damage when they end up in landfills or bodies of water, so it is essential that plastics are recycled to be sustainable. Ford claims 85% recycling of all materials including plastics, but this leaves a large question mark as to how much plastic waste Ford is creating. 
  • Rare Earth Metals: Known as Rare Earth Metals, these are metals such as cobalt and lithium that are used extensively in the production of Electric Vehicle (EV) batteries. These metals are sometimes sourced from conflict zones and are a scarce resource. Ford sources per the standards of the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI) so as to not harm the communities where cobalt is mined. 

In short, Ford’s materials are sourced fairly sustainably, but they still maintain a large carbon footprint overall due to the sheer volume of resources used. Their extensive recycling programs for aluminum and plastic components significantly reduce their need for primary materials, but their currently planned EV models will all depend on scarce materials. 

Where Are the Materials for Ford Cars Usually Sourced From

Ford materials are usually sourced from North America, where they produce most of their cars. The main exceptions to this include scarce minerals like cobalt, which have to be sourced from Africa, and resources that can be recycled at a manufacturing plant. 

Ford’s marketing has always touted that their vehicles are made in America. As it turns out, this is still mostly true even today. Many of Ford’s biggest suppliers are based in North America for their basic material needs. However, new EV designs depend on materials that are only found in a handful of regions. So, where does Ford source their materials from?

  • Aluminum: Ford receives the vast majority of their aluminum from two US-based suppliers: Arconic and Novelis. Both of these suppliers mine primary aluminum, as well as conduct recycling operations to produce high volumes. These two suppliers provide 98% of Ford’s aluminum, which all comes from either the US or Canada. However, these materials are then generally sent via cargo ship across the Atlantic to supply Ford’s European facilities. 
  • Plastics: Ford claims to utilize recycled plastics and plant-based materials that can be sourced locally to a respective factory, but it is unclear how much this accounts for their total usage. Ford does not disclose where their new plastic is produced from, or how much of it is still petroleum-based.
  • Rare Earth Metals: Generally speaking, cobalt mining has caused massive human damage in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Ford is a member of the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI), which means they conduct due diligence to source their cobalt responsibly with communities in mind. That being said, cobalt and lithium are still both scarce and can cause serious environmental pollution when mined. 

In short, Ford sources most of its raw materials in North America. Though they claim that their metals and plastics are recycled when possible, their distribution network still requires traditional, unsustainable cargo ships to send materials abroad. And finally, their future EV plans still revolve around scarce minerals rather than developing more sustainable alternatives. 

How Transparent is Ford About the Sustainability of Their Supply Chain

Ford’s supply chain is not completely transparent. Although their environmental reports are fairly exhaustive – including data about their waste production, recycling, GHG emissions, and mineral due diligence – Ford especially lacks information regarding their Chinese suppliers, which pose an acute risk to the environment and the laborers who work there. 

To be able to judge how sustainable a company is, we have to have trustworthy information to base our assessment on. Third-party verification can also help to ascertain if a company is self-policing or not. In Ford’s case, their releases are more informative than others. 

  • Ford’s certified due diligence of their cobalt supply chain is transparent, and they report all their suppliers: Ford’s suppliers are exclusive through their Aligned Business Framework (ABF), and as such, they maintain a smaller group of suppliers with strong relationships. An example is their reliance on only two producers of aluminum for 98% of their production needs. Ford’s RMI certification of their Cobalt suppliers further shows actual due diligence to source this vital material responsibly. 
  • Ford’s statistics regarding their total waste, total GHG emissions, and recycled material are publicly available: For example, in 2021, Ford sent 16.3 million kilograms of waste to landfills or approximately 1.9% of their total waste. They also reported producing 289 grams of CO2 per mile in their US cars, and 118 grams per kilometer in Europe. While this is transparent, it also shows that they still have a long way to go toward being truly sustainable.
  • Ford lacks information regarding their Chinese suppliers: Ford, like several other auto brands, has had exposure to suppliers in China that are known to utilize forced labor. And Ford lacks due diligence information regarding labor conditions for any of their Chinese suppliers. This isn’t to say that Ford is knowingly choosing suppliers who use forced laborers, but the lack of transparency for Chinese suppliers combined with a lack of genuine due diligence means companies like Ford can unknowingly support inhumane conditions.

In short, Ford is lacking transparency when it comes to their Chinese-based suppliers, with many concerning reports of forced labor being used in recent years. Ford’s environmental reports for the rest of their global operations are very transparent with key statistics regarding the environmental impact of their suppliers. Despite this, it does not seem they are fully transparent. 

How Sustainable Is the Manufacturing of Ford Cars

The manufacturing of Ford cars is only sustainable regarding their approach to waste management and aluminum recycling. In the US, the manufacture of Ford cars is powered by non-renewable energy and depends on traditional shipping methods to supply foreign markets. Recently, Ford’s burgeoning Chinese factories have been linked to exploitative labor conditions.

During the manufacturing stage, there is a lot of potential for environmental harm locally, and more broadly. High energy usage, if powered through fossil fuels, can emit harmful GHGs, excessive waste generation, and even chemical dumping can all occur when companies try to cut corners. So let’s take a look at how sustainably Ford manufactures their cars.

How Sustainably Are Ford Cars Generally Manufactured

Ford cars are generally manufactured only somewhat sustainably. They have established facilities that send zero waste to landfills, but their North American-based suppliers require them to utilize traditional international shipping methods. Their energy production is also still primarily from non-renewable sources. 

Ford maintains a fleet of 64 manufacturing and assembly plants worldwide. Each of these plants is specialized to produce just a couple of different models or parts, which means this complicated web is necessary to maintain Ford’s high output. Unfortunately, more stops along the manufacturing line can result in a larger environmental impact through transport emissions, and Ford’s limited suppliers can create bottlenecks that require them to use unsustainable transport during materials shortages. 

In short, Ford’s manufacturing facilities go further than some brands to reduce their waste, but Ford’s complicated web of distribution means that its carbon footprint is still too large. Their transportation is still dependent on fossil fuels and renewable energy production is also sorely lacking to help avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Where Are Ford Cars Usually Manufactured

Ford cars are typically manufactured in either the US or China. While their US plants have had some complaints over the years that have subsequently been investigated by the US government, Ford’s Chinese plants lack responsible oversight, which makes their impact hard to ascertain. 

  • Ford’s largest markets are the US and China, and cars made in these markets are sometimes exported to other markets: The majority of Ford’s production is conducted in the US, Mexico, and Canada among 8 plants. The next largest region is China, which contains 6 plants. Cars made in these regions are sometimes exported to other regions like Europe and South America. For example, Ford exported more than 280,000 US-assembled vehicles to other markets in 2021.
  • Ford’s American plants operate with government oversight, but still have reports of unethical business practices: Ford’s American plants have generally high standards for worker pay and benefits through negotiations led by American auto unions, but some plants have been accused in the past of both chemical pollution, and abusing workers in cooperation with labor unions. For example, in 2020, there were reports from Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan plant of conditions that enabled an increased spread of COVID-19. 
  • Ford’s Chinese plants have very little transparency, leading to many concerns: Generally speaking, Chinese-based factories have a notorious reputation as polluters and for using forced labor practices specifically in the automotive industry. These factories usually allow for cheaper production, which can attract greedy companies trying to cut costs due to the lack of regulatory oversight. Ford’s Chinese plants have not had any reported environmental compliance issues, but have been fined by the Chinese government in 2019 for alleged anti-trust law violations. These fines were considered to be politically motivated at the time, which brings the long-term stability of these factories into question. 

In short, the majority of Ford cars are built in either the US or China, their two largest markets. While the main concerns in both regions are primarily the way in which employees are treated – including but not limited to overwork, intimidation, and unsafe conditions – the Chinese plants also have serious environmental questions surrounding them due to the lack of oversight.

How Transparent is Ford About the Manufacturing of Their Cars

Ford cars are manufactured only somewhat transparently. Their suppliers are publicly available, and they conduct independently verified due diligence for potential conflict minerals; however, Ford does not release info that would allow us to ascertain the full impact of their manufacturing facilities.

In short, Ford’s manufacturing process is only transparent with regard to some of their material sourcing. The sourcing of potential conflict minerals is well documented and independently verified, and Ford’s suppliers are easy to find online. However, Ford lacks gross statistics about their GHG emissions and waste creation, which makes it impossible to know how large Ford’s environmental impact is.

How Sustainable Is the Transportation of Ford Cars to Their Point of Sale

The transportation of Ford cars to their point of sale is not very sustainable. Ford depends on cargo ships and over-the-road trucks to deliver their cars to dealerships, which are both major sources of air pollution. Ford’s usage of railway transport does make them slightly more sustainable than other manufacturers who do not.

The sustainability of the transportation of Ford cars along the supply chain:

  • Ford vehicles will be shipped out to their intended markets, typically by rail for domestic transport, and cargo ships for international transport.
  • International shipping is typically conducted via cargo ship, which is a major contributor to CO2 pollution. Ford’s use of cargo ships for international transport is not unique to them, but is a practice that produces significant GHG emissions.
  • Shipping within North America is typically conducted via railway, which has the potential to be a fairly sustainable method of transport. Railway emissions only accounted for 2% of US GHG emissions in 2019, and can dramatically reduce total GHG output when rail-based options are chosen over less-efficient methods such as trucks or planes.
  • Since most of Ford’s materials are sourced in North America, cars built and sold there have a smaller carbon footprint relative to models that must be shipped overseas to their intended market.

The sustainability of the transportation of Ford cars to their point of sale:

In short, the transportation of Ford cars to their point of sale is not very sustainable. Ford’s efforts to utilize railways when possible help to reduce transportation-related emissions, but their dependence on cargo ships for international transport and diesel trucks for domestic transport is wholly unsustainable. 

How Sustainable Is the Usage of Ford Cars

The usage of Ford cars is generally not very sustainable. They tend to live shorter than average lives due to both below-average reliability, and above-average depreciation. While some of their cars are more sustainable than others, Ford cars are generally not circular products.

The time a car spends on the road is one of the most impactful stages of its life. Gas-powered cars produce CO2, consume petroleum oil, and can do increased damage if they require frequent repairs. Similarly, when a car loses its value quickly it can end up being neglected, or even scrapped completely. We took a look at how sustainable the life of an average Ford car is. 

What Is the Typical Lifespan of Ford Cars

The typical lifespan of a Ford car is shorter than the industry average, as Fords generally have below-average reliability and value retention.

Ford cars are not particularly known for their reliability or solid quality of build. In the past, Ford’s reputation was marred by safety recalls for the Ford Pinto and excessive rusting of older models. Today, Ford’s production methods have advanced considerably, but do their new cars actually last longer?

The longer a car lasts, the longer it avoids joining the thousands of cars that clog our landfills around the world – and the less environmental strain added from producing a new car as a replacement. 

  • An extended life for a car also means that the owner is less likely to purchase a new car. 
  • The production and distribution process for making a car can be very damaging, so a higher demand for new vehicles could lead to even more CO2 being released. 
  • Ford cars have not been shown to be very reliable. For example, in 2022 Ford cars were ranked 18th out of 24 brands in reliability by Consumer Reports
  • An exception to this is the Ford F-150 truck, which is rated as the 2nd most reliable full-size truck in America. Unfortunately, this model is generally not very efficient when it comes to gas mileage.
  • Generally speaking, modern Ford cars are less reliable than the industry average, but not the least reliable either.

While it can be beneficial to keep a car on the road for a long time, older cars are typically less efficient and emit relatively more CO2 than newer ones.

  • Ford vehicles still in use are typically gas-powered, having launched their first EV in 2011 to little success.
  • This means the majority of Ford cars on the road are still gas-powered, with many of the most popular models being powered by gas-guzzling V8 engines (like the F-150 and the Mustang).
  • When a vehicle repeatedly costs the owner with repairs, too many may choose to neglect repairs which can increase the emissions from the vehicle, or result in spilling oil or other hazardous chemicals in the soil and water.
  • Generally speaking, Ford cars do not have longer-than-average lifespans, but the Fords that do have long lives will likely be inefficient and in disrepair due to higher-than-average repair costs

In short, Ford cars are less reliable than the industry average and historically have produced cars that are less efficient as well. Higher than average repair costs can lead to early neglect, which results in higher emissions and potential pollution. 

How Quickly Do Ford Cars Depreciate in Value

Ford cars depreciate faster than average, and some models lose value at significantly above-average rates. This leads them to live shorter lives, and to be more prone to mechanical neglect due to the expense of repairs. 

Depreciation of car prices over time can be an indicator of the expected lifespan of a car, but it is not a perfect indicator.

  • Depreciation can be influenced by many factors, including the original price of the car, the make and model, the condition of the car, and market demand.
  • Due to the pandemic instigating scarcity in the new car market, most 1-3-year-old cars are holding the vast majority of their residual value as if they were new.
  • This has challenged the traditional rule of 15% depreciation per year that a car is on the road.
  • And while cars with a lower depreciation rate may indicate a longer lifespan or higher quality, this is not always the case in such a seller’s market. 
Average depreciationFordIndustry Average
After 3 years18.8%16.9%
After 5 years36.8%33.3%

Data obtained through the database shows that Ford cars on average lose their value slightly faster than the industry average.

These numbers show that Ford cars generally do not hold their value very well. This has several consequences, the first of which is that owners are less likely to keep up with potential repairs. Once the car has lost too much of its value, the owner is unlikely to pay for a repair that costs a significant portion of the car’s value. Neglecting repairs can increase emissions, and reduce fuel economy!

Furthermore, a plummeting value means that a car will likely find itself at the end of its life sooner which can lead to them being scrapped, and potentially ending up in a landfill. Once a car becomes so worthless that it is difficult to sell, its usage will be significantly limited. 

In short, Ford cars depreciate at higher than average rates, which limits the usage of the vehicle and also means that they can become less efficient over time if repairs are neglected. Ford cars are also more prone to unsustainable usage since their models that do hold value better are all gas-powered.

How Circular Are Ford Cars

Ford cars are not very circular. Their recycling efforts help to reduce waste, but most of their cars and production facilities still generate significant GHG emissions. Their efforts to regenerate nature are limited, mostly focused on reducing their water usage. 

Circular products are a necessity for a sustainable future, and when it comes to cars the need is even more vital. There are many steps that automakers can take to ensure that they are helping to build a circular economy, but many fall short of their responsibility. 

Circular economy: The circular economy is a systems solution framework that tackles global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution”

Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Embracing the principles of the circular economy is a necessary change for industries that pollute as much as the automotive sector.

The three key principles to building a circular economy are to

  1. eliminate waste and pollution, 
  2. circulate products and materials, and 
  3. regenerate nature. 

More specifically, a circular business model in the car industry refers to a system that aims to keep car components and materials in use for as long as possible, reducing waste and the extraction of new raw materials. And the term “circular car” refers to a theoretical vehicle that has maximized materials efficiency.

In practice, this could mean designing cars that can be easily repaired and refurbished, using recycled materials in car production, and implementing practices that promote closed-loop systems, where waste from one process becomes inputs for another. The goal is to create a sustainable and regenerative system for the car industry, rather than the traditional linear model of “take, make, waste.” 

Examples of circular business models in the car industry include electric vehicles that can be powered by renewable energy, car sharing and subscription models, and closed-loop supply chains for car parts.

Let’s see next how circular Ford’s business and operating model already is!

In short, Ford cars are not circular products. Although they have made some advances in metal recycling and EV production, their lack of renewable energy sources for production, or large-scale programs that help to regenerate nature means they still have a long way to go.

How Sustainable Is the End-of-Life of Ford Cars

The end-of-life for Ford cars has the potential to be very sustainable due to their materials of choice, but their current actions are only somewhat sustainable as they are not recycling and reusing every part of the vehicle.

The end-of-life (when a car is no longer usable) of a car is critical in determining its overall environmental impact and is a key consideration in the development of circular business models in the car industry. This stage marks the final disposition of a car and its components, either through reuse/repurposing, recycling, or disposal.

Are components of Ford cars made to be reused or repurposed at their car’s end-of-life?

Are Ford cars made to be recycled at their end-of-life?

Do Ford cars largely have to be disposed of at their end-of-life?

  • Ford cars generally can be recycled, but like other manufacturers, Ford does not have a plan for recycling all the components in EV batteries
  • Ford states 85% of vehicle parts and materials are recycled and reused at their end-of-life, which is in line with the limited amount of material varieties used across their model range.

In short, the end-of-life for Fords cars could be very sustainable but generally is only somewhat sustainable. Ford utilizes specialized materials that can be recycled efficiently and have partnered with end-of-life recyclers, but it is unclear how much of a modern Ford car is truly being recycled.

What Are the Sustainability Efforts and Goals of Ford

In order to effectively decarbonize and build a circular economy, it is important for corporations to set goals that are both obtainable, and effectively tackle the root causes of climate change. Ford has launched many sustainable initiatives over the years, some more effective than others. We took a look at Ford’s past actions, current initiatives, and goals for the future to see if Ford is taking responsibility for the impact of their business. 

Previous sustainability efforts of FordSince introducing their first full EV in 2011, Ford has introduced 3 full EV models as of 2023.
Ford has utilized 12 different plant-based materials in their cars since 2000.
Ford purchased an automotive recycling company in 1999 to allow them to begin responsibly recycling their cars at their end-of-life.
Current sustainability efforts of FordFord has introduced renewable energy production for 32% of their global power consumption as of 2022.
Ford claims a recycling rate of 85% for all vehicle parts and materials, with 74% of manufacturing sites being deemed zero waste to landfill.
Ford is currently the 2nd leading brand for EV sales in the US.
Future sustainability goals of FordFord intends to be completely carbon neutral no later than 2050.
Ford plans to continue increasing their EV production capacity, expecting annual production of EV models to surpass 2 million by 2026, and for EVs to make up 50% of total sales by 2030.
Ford plans to use 100% carbon-free electricity production by 2035.

What Are Ford’s Previous Sustainability Efforts

Ford is not new to making headlines for their seemingly sustainable activities. Ford made proof of concepts for fully-electric cars and fully plant-based materials as far back s the 1990s. We took at some of their older claims to see if Ford actually backed them up with action. 

Ford began producing electric and hybrid-electric vehicles earlier than some manufacturers, but to date, the number of EVs (only 3) in their lineup is paltry compared to their 18 gas-powered offerings. Ford’s development of plant-based plastics is a more sustainable option than traditional petroleum-based plastic, but Ford still uses an undisclosed amount of this dirtier plastic. Finally, Ford’s acquisition of an automotive recycling company in 1999 does not seem to have borne any fruit, as no expansion of their operations has been reported on since.

What Are Ford’s Current Sustainability Efforts

Ford has pivoted their image to reflect a more sustainable future built around EV models and reducing their carbon emissions. This is currently reflected in a limited number of their actions that generally speaking could go further. 

Ford’s energy generation is a major way in that Ford is currently unsustainable. The vast majority of their energy comes from non-renewable sources, which creates large amounts of CO2 pollution. Ford has made their vehicles somewhat more sustainable by introducing more EV models and recycling more of their parts and materials. However, to combat climate change Ford will need to greatly increase both the number of EV cars on the road and decrease the pollution created by the rest of their manufacturing process. 

What Are Ford’s Future Sustainability Goals

It is much easier for an auto-maker to make lofty goals about the future, but it is still important that they set long-term goals to achieve a zero-carbon future. Some of Ford’s goals work towards zero-carbon, but they may come too slowly to make a difference.

Ford’s key long-term goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 is the same as some other manufacturers, and is similarly not soon enough to offset the prevent climate change’s worst effects. Their plan for 100% carbon-free electricity, however, is more in line with keeping global warming below 1.5°C. Ford’s continued investment in EV models is an effective strategy, but their goal of 2 million EVs is greater than their 2022 US sales. Ford would not only need aggressive electrification of their model lineup but an increase in sales as well for them to have a chance of achieving this goal.

How Aligned Are the Sustainability Marketing Messages of Ford With the Sustainability of Their Cars

Ford’s marketing messages are not aligned with the sustainability of their cars. Ford’s EV production goals are unlikely given their current production, some of their suppliers have been linked to forced labor in China, and Ford has supported lobbying efforts that sought to loosen emissions regulations.

As we’ve learned during our life-cycle analysis, Ford has spent considerable time and resources preparing public disclosures highlighting their sustainable actions. However, we’ve also learned that some of their claims may stretch the truth. Let’s take a look at how some of Ford’s sustainability claims stack up against their actions.

Greenwashing: behavior or activities that make people believe that a company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is

Cambridge Dictionary

Ford claims to be an industry leader in EV technology, and subsequently has promised to deliver millions of new EVs in the coming years. Specifically, Ford claims their annual production of EVs will surpass 2 million by 2026. This is hard to believe, however, since Ford is currently on track to only produce 600,000 models annually, and even a 100% conversion of Ford’s total US sales to EV sales would still be less than 2 million units. Unless Ford were to discontinue their gas-powered line-up entirely, this goal will likely not be achieved.

Another issue that Ford claims to be taking initiative on is ensuring that human rights are respected by all of their suppliers. Ford cites their due diligence work with sourcing cobalt as an example of how seriously they take human rights concerns. However, reports have shown many manufacturers, Ford included, have sourced parts from manufacturing facilities in China that have been linked with extensive forced labor practices. The report concludes that auto manufacturers like Ford are not effectively tracing their materials back to their origin as they claim to be doing, and in doing so are supporting a system that abuses minority workers.

Finally, Ford has made claims that they are seeking to exceed governmental regulations to decarbonize their operations as quickly as possible. However, Ford’s actions in the late 2010s seem counter to that stance. As a member of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI), Ford invested in lobbying efforts during the Trump administration to loosen emissions rules. Ford has since shifted to accept stricter regulations from the Biden administration, but remains a member of the AAI. This creates concern that under a similarly lenient administration, Ford may take part in loosening environmental regulations once again. 

Sustainability marketing messages of FordSustainability of Ford cars
“[Ford’s] annual production of EV models to surpass 2 million by 2026”This goal does neither seem to be realistic nor does it show the full picture, as Ford’s EV sales in 2022 only made up 3.2% (179,279 units) of their 1.8 million total unit sales
Ford is committed to ensuring their suppliers and partners respect human rightsRecent reports linking Ford, among others, to Chinese manufacturing facilities that have allegedly utilized forced labor seem to show that Ford still does not conduct enough due diligence.
“[Ford will] build supply base capacity that exceeds minimum regulatory compliance requirements”Ford’s claims that they will exceed regulatory environmental requirements do not align with their lobbying efforts during the Trump administration to roll back emissions standards.

In short, Ford’s sustainability messaging cannot be considered completely aligned with the truth of their operations. Ford’s goals for EV cars do not seem possible based on their current progress, and questions have been raised about exploitative labor unknowingly being used through some of Ford’s suppliers. Furthermore, Ford has taken part in lobbying efforts to roll back emissions regulations. We are forced to conclude that Ford’s claims are not fully accurate or trustworthy.

Why Is It Important to Buy More Sustainable Cars

Sustainable cars have many advantages, along with reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. For example, full EVs produce no tailpipe emissions and are better for both the environment and your health. But did you know that EV cars can even save you money compared to the ownership costs of gas-powered cars?

Let’s have a look at the environmental, economic, and public health benefits of more sustainable cars next!

What Are the Environmental Benefits of More Sustainable Cars

Driving a more sustainable car is an important step toward reducing your impact on the environment and preserving natural resources for future generations. And it is especially crucial in reducing transporting-related emissions.

The average passenger car generates 4.6 metric tons of CO2 a year, with many generating much more than that. Along with GHGs, the exhaust of dirty cars can release large amounts of carbon monoxide and methane as well. All of these accelerate global warming, and can even lead to rain acidification.

Illustration of where CO2 emission from transport come from
Our World in Data: Cars, planes, trains: where do CO2 emissions from transport come from?

In total, transportation – personal, commercial, and otherwise – accounts for around one-fifth of global CO2 emissions.

In short, sustainable cars benefit the environment by emitting significantly less CO2 than traditional gas-powered cars, with some electric vehicles emitting no tailpipe emissions at all. Ideally, sustainable cars are fully circular, produced with parts that can be reused rather than discarded, minimizing total life-cycle emissions and waste generated.

What Are the Economic Benefits of More Sustainable Cars

Many popular electric cars on the market have a high price tag, and it has led some people to believe that owning a sustainable car is not a cost-effective option. The truth is, there are many factors that reduce the cost of ownership over the lifetime of the vehicle!

  • Lower fuel costs: For starters, you’ll save money by not having to fill up at the gas station every week! Fueling an electric car for an entire month is estimated to cost less than $60. Depending on the fluctuating price of gasoline, you could spend more than twice that in a month on gasoline.
  • Reduced maintenance costs: You also won’t have to worry about keeping your oil tank filled, as electric cars don’t use petroleum or synthetic motor oil like a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE).
  • Higher reliability: EVs also lack other traditional failure points like timing belts or multi-speed gearboxes.
  • Government subsidies: in some countries, the government will pay you to purchase an electric car. The US, several countries in Europe, Australia, and even China all have incentive programs to help cover the cost of a new EV for consumers.
  • Job creation: The shift towards sustainable cars is creating new jobs in the manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, as well as in the production of batteries and other components. For example, the Economic Policy Institute estimates that the shift to EVs could create over 150,000 jobs in the US alone by 2030.

If you’re not able to afford to replace your gas-powered car at this time, keeping your older car maintained and efficient will also save you money through higher gas mileage, and less frequent repairs. To keep your car operating as intended, get regular oil changes, don’t idle your engine, and make sure your tires are filled to their recommended PSI. 

In short, changing to a more sustainable EV can save you money over a traditional gas-powered car – especially over the lifetime of the vehicle. They are cheaper to fuel and maintain, and many countries offer financial incentives to purchase an EV.

What Are the Public Health Benefits of More Sustainable Cars

Driving your car directly affects the air quality around you. All gas-powered cars produce harmful emissions, and many aging cars are prone to higher emissions due to faulty or failed equipment, and outdated engine designs. In addition, examples from Los Angeles to Beijing show the negative effects of smog build-up when it gets out of control.

In short, driving sustainable cars does not only have a big impact on protecting the planet, but also directly benefits your health and that of the people around you. Making the change to a sustainable, zero-emissions car reduces air pollution and helps everyone around you to breathe easier and healthier. And the reduced noise pollution from EVs has positive effects on your mental health and well-being.

Final Thoughts

All in all, our life-cycle analysis of Ford cars shows that although many of the largest auto manufacturers are still increasing profits at the expense of the planet, the potential does exist for responsible car use in the future.

Ford’s advancements in aluminum recycling can be applied to other industries, and a more complete commitment to EVs and clean electricity could help develop the affordable technology needed to create a sustainable future. However, the only way to get there will be through continued oversight both by governments and by consumers to insure that large companies like Ford are truly acting responsibly.

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